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…

Snow Witch, Time Out!

Caverns of the Snow Witch. This is starting to turn into a real drag.

Fifth attempt.

Skill of 10, luck of 9.  Rather than spend one or two luck points crossing the bridge, I take my chance with the mammoth. Bad move. He rips me down to one stamina point and I have to eat half of my food just to get by. In the blizzard-igloo scene next, two more food.

I find my way to the cabin, and heroically devour some stranger’s lunch and steal his weapons.  Thus the less popular original title of the FF series: “The series where YOU become a home invader and common thief!”

Up the mountain and meet the yeti. I have 5 food and 17 stamina –  he knocks me down to 1 stamina –  I now have one food and 17 stamina again. Yes, I have eaten 36 points worth of healing, and only have one food left, … and that’s the prologue.

At this point, a reasonable person would collect that yeti pelt and return to base. Not only is there a 50 gold piece reward waiting for me, but there’s probably food as well.

Hm. Discretion is the better part of valour, so you know what… Time Out!

I head back to camp, and turn in the yeti pelt. My employer is very relieved, and gratefully pays the 50 gold pieces. I tell him that this was only one of many, that the trade route should be safe for the time being but I really should go take care of the rest of them. Big Jim fills my backpack with food,  and I take off back up the mountain again. Having already killed the mammoth, ransacked the shed, and killed the yeti, it’s a very short trip up to page 25. My adventure begins here!

 

Eaten By Wolves

After that horrible mess that was my last attempt to reach the caverns of the Snow Witch, let’s try again.

Skill 7, luck 8. Oh geez. My 22 stamina isn’t going to get me far.

Page 1, the ice bridge. Knowing that there’s a mammoth if I don’t take the bridge, I take the bridge. I take a mere 1 point of damage,  but I am much more concerned that it cost me two points of luck. Across the bridge are two wolves with the skill of 7, against my own skill of 7.

It’s a pretty short battle. The first one beats me all the way down to 6 points, the second one finishes me off in three rolls. My adventure ends here, as dog food.

Hm. What am I missing here, that page 1 is fatal most of the time?

 

Blood on the Ice

Another whack at Caverns of the Snow Witch!

This time my skill is a paltry 8, luck 10, stamina 20.  I don’t have a good feeling about this, because most of the monsters in my previous play had a skill of 10, including that plot point yeti.

Page 1, I take a detour around the ice bridge and run into a mammoth. It has a skill of 10, and I am killed in exactly 10 dice rolls without hitting him even one time. Game over.

Hm. Some of the early books did have game balance issues.

 

 

An Eternal Ice Age?

Time to play Caverns of the Snow Witch! I’ve never played this one before, despite it being fairly early in the series.

I rolled myself a 12 skill, 11 luck, and 20 stamina.  Aww hell yes! I’m unstoppable!

So apparently I’m a security guard, protecting a caravan up in the Great White North. The trading village has been destroyed by some abominable man-creature native to snow, and  I figure I can make some money if I kill this beast.

Turns out that it really is easy money. Aside from a brief encounter with near frostbite, and ransacking some furtrapper’s home to steal his weapons, I run into the yeti and kill it without taking a scratch.

High on my success, I decide to skip on the 50 gold piece reward waiting for me back at the camp, and go after the Snow Witch,  whom the trapper says lives nearby! She’s probably evil, and there’s probably loot, and I’m not on paragraph 400 yet, so why the hell not?

This doesn’t go well.  I immediately fall into a trap, find my way into a temple with too many creatures to fight, continue running, and meet a wizard who has the mirror image spell.

By this time there have been five Test Your Luck rolls, so my once fortunate 11 is down to 5. The wizard battle consists of testing my luck, losing an extra luck point every time in addition to 1 skill and 2 stamina. Needless to say, this has me dead in no time flat.

What an ignominious and unfortunate end. Next time, I’ll bring a luck potion!

 

Replay: Midnight Rogue

I have played this one before, and I admit that I was not impressed. Aside from the town, the map is a simple straight line, and your choice of skills doesn’t really make a difference. But, let’s try it again and see if I like it better this time.

7 skill, 22 stamina, 12 luck. Ouch. No wonder the other thieves are sending me on a hazing.  They’re probably hoping that I’ll just get arrested or killed, so they don’t have to hang around me.

My mission is to steal a gem from a wealthy merchant. I’m given the choice of heading to the merchant’s house, to the merchant district where he probably has an office, or to the nasty part of town where other thieves hang out to see if maybe they have some ideas.

I elect to go to his house, since him keeping the gem in his office seems too obvious.  On the way there,  I run into  security guards and just take off running. Unfortunately, this is a skill roll. Fortunately, I roll 4 so even this incompetent boob manages to get away.

I find the merchant’s house easily enough, then climb around and peek in some windows because I’m just weird that way. Finally I go ahead and break into the house and head upstairs, find an office and break into it. I find a safe with two locks requiring two keys. I try to pick the lock and am bitten in the hand by a snake living inside the lock. What the hell? How does a snake live inside of a lock?

I continue lurking around the house a little bit, sneak into the merchant’s bedroom, and wake him up. Nice move. I take off as fast as I can, all the way back to the merchant district. Maybe I’ll have more luck at his office.

Not so much. I sneak around back and try to climb up to a window, and find that it’s guarded by a  gargoyle. I don’t stand a chance, but unfortunately the book doesn’t allow me a way to back off unless I own one of three items. In order to move forward, I lie and say that I have a black cloak with a hood — I’m a thief after all, so I probably do, right?

It doesn’t do me any good though. I try to bluff the gargoyle with it, and miss, and lose my footing. I fall to the ground, the gargoyle pounces on me and devours me.  My adventure ends here.

Replay: Return to Firetop Mountain

Ten years ago, back in book 1 ,some reckless clot killed Zagor, the Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Yeah, those were fun times.

Now Zagor is back as a lich, because that’s what happens when wizards die. They turn even eviler and uglier, and start kidnapping folks from nearby villages in order to construct a new body for themselves.

Naturally, when the villagers mention this, I whistle and turn away, and pretend that I have no idea who that adventurer was, who has incurred the sorcerer’s wrath.

I introduce myself as Randy Randerson, sword for hire. I have 11 Skill, 24 Stamina, and 9 Luck. Aww yeah!

As I take off down the road, I am alerted to track down a pair of Zagor’s servants and kill them. This goes without any trouble, and in the process I find a shield. Sadly, this shield doesn’t grant me any fighting bonus… doubly so, because I find a cursed scroll and my badass 11 Skill is reduced to a mediocre 9.

Thinking back to my days in the Scorpion Swamp, I remember that Yaztromo sells magical artifacts and that could be really helpful here. So I take a diversion the other direction. I get most of the way there, and find out that the Yazmeister is off doing sorciers sans frontieres helping to treat a plague. That’s okay, let’s go find him there anyway (why? all his stuff for sale would be at the shop!).

I hitch a ride up river, and it’s uneventful except for being attacked by a lone orc who kills a crewmember, and getting a note via carrier pigeon that there’s a doppelganger emulating Yaztromo so I gotta be careful. Evidently, “uneventful” doesn’t mean quite the same thing on Titan as it does here.

After a brief run-in with said doppelganger, the real Yazinator tells me that the key to re-killing Zagor is to collect all of his toy dragon statuettes. No other adivce, sorry, but at least he knows a guy who can fly me to the mountain to make up the time I wasted getting here!

The airlift doesn’t go at all well. We’re intercepted by a harpy halfway there, and it takes down my eagle in very short order. I and the dead eagle spiral and crash to my death far below. The End.

Bummer!

 

Escape and Death in a Far Away Land

Shadow in the Sand was so much fun, and I saw so little of the book last time, that we should do it again. This time I have 14 combat, and am loaded out as a tank: mindblast and healing, sword skill and a shield. Rawr!

We arrive in Barrakeesh to find the king dead, and replaced with a new one who wants to arrest me fresh off the boat. I am of the opinion that cowardice is the better part of discretion, so I dive into the water to escape. I have a brief talk with a floating blob monster asking him not to eat me, then flee into the bazaar district with the soldiers hot on my tail.

I try to blend in by buying a black sash of mourning and acting sad, as I crawl into a tavern to drown my alleged sorrows. The owner understands my grief and lets me hide in the basement, where I find a sewer grate and decide that it’s a great place to hide! A few stinky hours in the sewer, and I have killed several lizards and contracted a paralytic bacterial infection in my arm before I find my way out. It was a full, rich day.

I escape the sewers and fortunately find myself at the public bath house. I wash off and start looking for an herbalist to see to my arm. The only herbalist in town though, says that the king’s apothecary is the only one with access to Oede herb these days, so I guess it’s time to break into the palace!

This works out famously, as Our Brave Hero murders a passer-by to steal his clothing and travel papers, then sneaks into the castle and finds the apothecary fight away. Now that my arm is healed, time for the bad news… The new king is cutting a deal with the Darklords, and I’m part of the deal!

I take off running, and make it as far as the gate back to the garden. Then the Drakkarim warriors straight up shoot me in the back. As I fall forward onto the poisoned spikes, I think to myself that this is some serious overkill.

My mission and adventure, ends there.

 

Finding the Tomb of the Zakhan

In our last segment, Lone Wolf was in Vassagonia trying to find the Tomb of the Zakhan, in which the fabled Book of the Magnakai is said to lie. The Darklord Haakon is also looking for it, so as to destroy it and prevent other people from becoming Lone Wolf.

After a really surprisingly fortunate set of dice rolls, I escaped from Barrakeesh on a giant eagle and have joined up with an airship manned by a magician and a squadron of dwarven riflemen. Now that’s a team to have your back!

We’re headed south to Ikaresh, hoping to met up with a fella named Tipasa who knows exactly where that tomb is located. We walk the last few miles on foot so as not to attract attention, and meet up with a nice man who tells us where Tipasa lives. When we get into Ikaresh, we find that Tipasa has been taken away by the Darklords… but he did leave his diary.

I had to cheat to solve the diary because of misprints in this edition of the book. Yes really, I can take a photo to prove it.

Having arrived at the tomb, well, the entry and boss fight were super simple. I snuck past the only guard, and Darklord Haakon went down without a fight when he dropped his magic rock.

So yeah… My first playthrough and I won. The Book of Magnakai is mine. First playthrough.

But the good news, is that I’ve likely seen about half of the book. There are a lot of turns I didn’t take.

 

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