Two Deaths in One Hour

Fire on the Water is just tearing me up.  Two playthroughs in the last hour, both very doomed to near-immediate failure.

Play One

I rolled a combat skill of 10, and 27 endurance. This means that when I encountered the ruffian on page 1, I got ripped all the way down to 9 endurance.

The journey by ship went uneventfully, until the big storm and the swim to shore. I flagged down that fishing boat again and got robbed again. Yeah, I really shouldn’t have done that.  I wandered around Ragadorn mapping out the place, lost the last of my money at the gambling house, and had to stow away on the coach to Port Bax.

We made it as far as the inn, before the innkeeper turned me away for not having a coach ticket. I slept in the hayloft, and was murdered in my sleep.

Play Two

Again a 10 combat and 27 endurance.  Again, I got beaten down pretty savagely by that imposter on page 1. Get on the Green Scepter, running to pirates, and I’m cut down in short order.

I think that play through was seven pages. A new record.

 

I did mention that Flight From The Dark was suspiciously easy. This one, proving to be more of a challenge.

 

 

Fire On The Water: Shortest Offensive Of All Time

So, my previous character finally got killed after a very good run through the first book and into Port Bax in this book. I rolled up a new one, starting here in book 2. Compared to my previous fella, this means:

  • Only the starting set of 5 superpowers, and not 6
  • 10+d10 gold, instead of the 40 from last time
  • A randomly-selected weapon skill, for the axe which is not a weapon stocked by the quartermaster
  • Two meals of food, in lieu of a second item
  • 20 endurance and 14 combat, contrasted with my prior 26 and 19

Yeah, thanks to a very stingy quartermaster who won’t even stuff my backpack with tempeh sandwiches, let alone let me have an axe and a shield, I decided to name him Sir Not Long For This World.

Off we go!

I meet Ronan and beat him down, and make my way onto the Green Scepter. The journey is, as usual, random rolls: we see a pirate ship and outrun it, there’s a fire, the storm wrecks the ship and I swim.

This time, I get picked up by some fishermen… who rob me. I am now in a completely different Ragadorn that on my prior playthroughs! (neat!) I need the Seal of Hammerdal, and I know that I need at least 25 gold for the coach to Port Bax. I find their boat and a mace (I’m not skilled, but it’s a weapon) and a matchbook for their tavern of choice. I find the louts and recover the Seal from one of them who got drunk and knocked himself out on a curb… but my sixth sense tells me that any further night-time skylarkings would be a bad move, so back to bed.

In the morning, I am some 20 gold short of being able to afford the coach to Port Bax — so I take up gambling for a while. It was touch-and-go and a bit hair-raising at times, but it worked out and eventually I got to buy my ticket and rejoin my previous adventure.

As before, we arrive at an inn and someone buys me a poisoned dinner. I bust downstairs to kick their butt… and realize that with a non-proficient weapon, no shield, and a 14 combat I’m outmatched! I get knocked from 20 endurance to 1 before I sneak out the back door, steal a horse, … and starve to death the next day.

An ignominious end for our brave hero!

 

Arrival in Port Bax

When we left me, our  brave hero, I had taken a coach with some strangers, bound for Port Bax. At a stopover, one of the other passengers tried to poison me. I don’t take kindly to such things, so I went downstairs to have words with the would-be assassin. And by words, I mean I whipped out my sword and ran them through, then rifled through their purse for money.

The other passengers, and the barkeep and patrons, found this behavior inappropriate, and a moment later the guards came in and a mob formed outside. Being a brave hero and elite Kai Lord, I hid in a hay wagon until they passed, then stole a horse and took off. Ever your brave hero, ladies and gentlemen.

I rode all night, then had to ditch my horse when the forest became impassable dense. As major highways often do… I met some guards and showed them the Seal, and got an escort into Port Bax. Whew!

Finding my way to the harbor was no problem, involving a little paperwork and showing off my Royal Hall Pass. I meet up with the Lord-Lieutenant and we organize an escort for the rest of my trip.

The trip is largely uneventful, until we are attacked by ring wraiths… Or the generic knockoff brand of ring wraiths here in Magnamund.  Being an elite assassin, I take off running into the woods.  Eventually, we wind up at the entrance to the tunnel leading to my destination, the city of Hammerdal.

I take only a couple of steps inside, before one of the wraiths drops from the ceiling and I’m instantly dead because I don’t have a magic spear. Bummer.

Tunnel wraiths. Hate ’em.

 

A Journey by Coach

Yesterday, I started on the second stage of my adventure.  The king  has sent me on a quest to the east, to pick up the magic sword. Our ship got about halfway there and was destroyed in a mysterious storm, the origins of which may not have been purely meteorological. I swam to shore, then sat pondering my map for a little bit to figure out how I’m going to get the rest of the way.

Fortunately, I wasn’t that far from the road.  The next morning, there’s a coach headed to the next city, where I’ll be able to catch another coach straight to  Fort Bax! Piece of cake.

I have plenty of money from the previous book, so when we get into town I have no problem picking up a new sword, then a ticket for the coach. Aside from being a rundown and depressing place, it was a very quiet layover. I didn’t even run into any gangs, corrupt town guards, or other such adventure. Next thing I know, I’m on the coach.

There’s a random roll to see what sort of problem we encounter on our first day. This time, it was a troll guarding a bridge, who wanted us to pay the toll. Last time, there was an uneventful stop over at the shrine for I picked up some edible plants. Finally, we arrived at the interesting part of the trip …

I’m hanging out in my room at the inn, and the innkeeper brings me dinner, courtesy of one of the other people on the coach, but they won’t say which one. Obviously, this is a classic poison-dinner trap.  I’m pretty unhappy by this, so I had downstairs and see that one of my companions has the serpent tattoo same as the fellow who tried to kill me earlier. I kill him in two shots, the town guard busts in, and I flee out the back door, steal a horse, and disappear into the night. Remember, forks, I’m the hero!

And that’s where I am now. Sleep deprived, on the run from a mob, and still 50 miles from Port Bax.

A Journey By Sea

So I played the first book a few more times, and mapped out some more of what’s in there. I think I might have gotten half of it in several more plays — there’s a lot!

But I have decided to try something new. Rather than just fixating on the one book and mapping it out completely, I decided to just carry over my character to the second book and see how far I make it. That’s the intended play style, and there’s no point in my wearing out the first book so quickly.

We open with the king thanking me and giving me his royal seal,  which I will be expected to present in order to be given the magic sword. Then the quartermaster leads me downstairs to gear up.  As is typical, they’re very stingy: I can only have two items, so it’s a choice between weapons, armor, or else food.  I would think that the very least they could do, would be to stuff my backpack with food and medicine.

Page 1 has me in a bar brawl fighting for my life, as I try to meet the first mate of a ship to take me east. This character has a sword and shield, 19 combat, plus mindblast — meaning that it was a two-hit beatdown.

I talk my way onto the ship, and off we go. There are a bunch of random checks to see what happens, but I played through a few times and keep getting only the boring outcomes where we see an abandoned boat and pass it by. Eventually, there’s a fire on the ship and then a storm destroys the ship so I have to swim to shore, find a road,  and see about getting to Port Bax.

According to the map, I’m about six hours west of Ragadorn,  so the remaining distance is about double what I covered in the first book. I ponder this as I dry my clothes in the sun, and hope those fruit are edible…

 

Fleeing From The Dark (again)

Flight From The Dark – Lone Wolf #1

Last night I cracked this open, and won it on the first playthrough. This was largely on account of a strategy of cowardice: stick to the trees, avoid the highways, don’t talk to anyone. Surprisingly, I got to the end and wasn’t expected to have a scavenged collection of trinkets… just met the officers who recognized my station, went to see the king, done.

So, I’m gonna play this one through a few more times and see what I missed.

This new character is a bit more of a tank. 19 combat again (yes!), proficient in swords but doesn’t have one yet. Skilled in sixth sense and tracking, healing, and psyching out opponents to put them off balance (mindblast).

Again, opening page my sixth sense tells me to avoid the paths and gives me 2 new paths.

I wander southward from the burning monastery, and find a watch tower. I climb it and get a look around, and grab a spear which someone was giving away for a birthday (though I am not skilled in spears), then take off. I run afoul of a bear, because of a typo in the book, and kill it. I find the bear’s cave, which has some stone steps… but also an aura of danger and menace.

A couple pages later, I cross a stream, and run into some of the king’s men. They take me to the prince… who like last time was mortally wounded by a lizard man, and gave me his horse.

This time when I got to Holmgard, I decided to try the highway. Bad move, for exactly the reasons I expected: there’s a random roll to see if you’re noticed by the patrol of 20 Doomwolves. I was, and was instantly wolf chow.

Second run, I got most of the way there.

I noticed last night that sixth sense and tracking are somewhat overused and therefore overpowered, giving away clues in a lot of the encounters. The Healing skill restores 1 point of endurance for every page flip when I’m not fighting. That’s most page flips, which means that I’ll almost always be at perfect health.

Despite having reconnected to my path last night, I have a feeling there’s still a lot more that I haven’t seen yet. For a start, if I lacked the sixth sense skill, there would be 2 totally different starting paths away from the monastery…

The ease of winning or nearly winning, so far has me quite baffled. But the replayability seems to be there.

Let’s roll up another one…

 

 

Fleeing the Ruined Monastery

My new book as of last night, is Flight From The Dark — book #1 of the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever. I think I played one of these, once, a really long time ago. At least, the word Kai sounds familiar…?

The story opens with a bang! The legions of Mordor are invading, and they’re not messing around. They have enough Kraan (a winged beast for riding) to blot out the sun, and enough Giaks (humanoid foot soldiers) for a serious genocide. And page 1 starts with me sifting through the burning rubble of the monastery, the sole survivor, … the last of the Kai!

Okay, so back up. What’s a Kai? It’s kind of a special-forces ninja training thing for kids. Yeah, summer camps in Magnamund are really interesting. My character was on the ranger-ninja path in his training: 19 combat skill (the highest you can get), trained in tracking and camouflage and talking to animals, trained in sixth sense, and proficient with using a spear.

Fortunately, I have a habit of screwing around in class, so I was out chopping wood when the monastery was destroyed. I collect my things and take off down the path. Right on the first page my sixth sense pay off, telling me that the forest path is a bad move. I decide that cowardice is the better part of discretion, and adopt a strategy of hiding: bushwack through the forest here to avoid the patrols, find a village and get a spear (yes!), hide from a patrol, hide from the king’s men cuz they might be fakes, avoid the highways and paths, stay in the forest where there’s cover because they have archers.

I finally stumble randomly across one of the king’s military patrols, and though the prince was mortally wounded before I got there, I did defend him! He gave me his horse to continue my ride.

I get to the hill overlooking Holmgard, only an hour’s ride away via the straight, open, unprotected highway. Nope. I head for the river. I bravely ditch the horse, bravely steal someone’s canoe, then bravely hunker down in the bottom of the canoe and hope nobody sees me. Eventually I run aground at one of the final barricades of the king’s army.

I’m ushered in as an esteemed guest (they see my famous green cloak of the Kai, but don’t ask if I’ve graduated or if I was even a good student) to see the king forthwith.

The king thanks me for the news of the invasion (which they’ve been fighting off for the last 2 days, so yay for the news flash), and orders me to start a new book… Lone Wolf #2, Fire on the Water.

Yes, I won this book on the first try and with only minimal combat. Believe me, I am just as shocked as you.

The intro did mention that if you find the path, you could get by with minimal stats, and I guess that was accurate. I was at least expecting some scavenger hunt thing near the end, where I fail because I didn’t find the silver hairpin and the cook’s rolling pin. But nope, just stick to the shadows and hide…

It was a fun time, though. I imagine I’ve only seen a small portion of what’s in here, too…

 

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.

 

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