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…

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!

 

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