Saturday, 19 April 2008

#9 - Caverns of the Snow Witch

This, the ninth book in the series is apparently a prequel to Forest of Doom - though getting as far as I did on both the attempts I made in the hour prior to sitting down in front of the computer, you wouldn't know it.

Brutal is perhaps the best word to describe Caverns of the Snow Witch... according to Wikipedia it's a three-parter with a couple of secondary characters eventually tagging along with you. I never got as far as half way through the first mission, and only briefly met a dwarf before being stabbed in the shoulder to death.

First of all, it didn't help that I initially rolled a piss-poor skill level of seven. My stamina was 24 though, I'm not sure what kind of training leads a warrior to have such power and endurance but the dexterity of a wombat. My luck was 11, which I assumed I was going to need.

Soon after trekking off in search of a Yeti, after easily killing a couple of goblins, I had the option of trudging on despite the weather, or hanging out in the snow overnight. I've seen The Empire Strikes Back and know not to spend too much time in the snow, so I pushed ahead, eventually contracting a mean case of frostbite in, not surprisingly, my sword arm. With my skill at a ridiculously low four, Iwolfed down my Potion of Skill to restore it, and found refuge in a warm cabin.

On leaving the cabin, I took the occupants' weapons - a war hammer (I assume this is the link to Forest of Doom) and a spear. After losing even more stamina in the snow (when will this end?!) I soon came across the Yeti, but the frostbite prevented me from slaying the creature in one swoop, and I was mercilessly slaughtered.

Right, that was far too short an adventure to write about I decided, so re-rolled for a second attempt. Skill? Seven. Bugger. Stamina 22, luck 11. Once again I must've been using some cheap infomercial-advertised exercise system.

So with a luck of 11, I took my chances on the ice bridge and dispatched the two goblins - not without difficulty though, they got me down to a single stamina point. Hmmm. I wolfed down five meals, which in Fighting Fantasy world gets you back up to full strength somehow, like they come with loaded with caffeine and guarana or something, and built an igloo for the night. It would seem my skill rating of seven only applies to fighting, and not eskimo-related abilities.

I didn't get frostbite, but had to eat two meals to regain my energy after the long walk in the snow. So after only turning the page five or six times, I was seven meals down. At this rate, I'd be looking forward to eating the Snow Witch, should I make it that far.

I made it to the Yeti, and the spear did almost nothing, but the dice were much kinder. I killed him with six stamina remaining. At this point the book said I considered returning to collect my reward, but chose to press on. Yeah, with six stamina points and two meals, I chose to head on. Thanks, freedom of choice!

I then managed to aviod an avalanche through pure luck, and entered the caverns. The first person I met was a goblin, who upon mentioning his desire to run away, was promptly killed Battle Royale-style by the 'obedience collar' around his neck. Then, to rub it in, I lost a luck point. Ian Livingstone wasn't mucking around when he wrote this book.

Eventually, I came across a room of 10 people worshipping an ice statue, and had three options - tell them I was going to play a magic flute for the Snow Witch (I didn't have one), fight them (err, no thanks) or try to just wander past. I tried the latter, and was caught by a whip and forced to fight the ice statue, which turned out to actually be a demon. Great... Somehow, through the use of luck, luck, and extremely lucky dice rolls, I came out of it alive, with a single stamina point left. The worshippers let me leave, thinking I must have the demon's powers now - yeah, a guy who'd die if on the receiving end of a dead-arm punch has the powers of a demon. Right... My reward, apart from a delayed inevitable death? One luck point. I was now up to three.

I then saved a dwarf from a pit, and told him I was determined to press on into the cavern. Yup, with a single stamina point and no food, I was going to slay the greatest threat to Allansia apparently.

Ultimately, I was killed by an "ugly robed man" when he stabbed me in the shoulder. I'm not sure if it was he or his robes that were ugly, I'm not sure I would've cared, almost being a zombie and all.

I wasn't impressed by this book - at every turn, I was losing stamina or being asked to fight powerful opponents, right from the get-go, with no let up. I've read the book is quite interesting once you get past the Snow Witch, who apparently is dealt with inside the first half of the story, but getting there without a high skill roll is nigh on impossible.

Perhaps I'm just annoyed I rolled two sevens, haha!

There's not really a lot more I can say, not getting too far either time. Well, maybe I'll have better luck with House Of Hell.


Ed said...

The link to Forest of Doom comes late on in the narrative, when you briefly visit Stonebridge and discover everyone in a state of despair because the King's warhammer (not the one from the trapper's hut) has been stolen.

All Ian Livingstone books from this one onwards include several extremely harsh fights. Start with a Skill under 10, and you're almost certainly doomed.

Dan said...

I never would have noticed as a kid, as I had these magic dice that would always roll me 12/24/12 :)

Aussiesmurf said...

This adventure, while atmospheric, is simply ridiculous. There is no way it can be completed without near-maximum Skill and Stamina. I can tell you that the latter portion, which involves trying to undo a Death Spell cast on you by the Snow Which, automatically deducts a Stamina point every couple of paragraphs.

This and Deathtrap Dungeon were the books that really soured me on Ian Livingstones "collect every items and roll perfect scores to win" gamebooks.