It's pretty obvious from the title what Sword of the Samurai is going to be about, but for some reason I assumed it'd be Earth-based. Samurai seems a very specific area to me, not like the generic early-medieval settings of most books that has been used for many a fantasy setting.
But we'd be living in a pretty boring world if it weren't for Japan, and I suppose Allansia is the same!
You're a champion samurai tasked with retrieving the stolen 'Singing Sword' from Ikiru, who lives in the regretfully-named 'Pit of Demons'. The holder of the sword (excuse the pun) weilds extreme power, and as you've probably guessed, Ikiru's a bad guy. Who else would live in a place called 'Pit of Demons'?
Perhaps Ikiru's a good guy whom people just don't trust because he chooses to live in a place called 'Pit of Demons'. If it was known as, I don't know, 'The Valley of Fallen Angels' people wouldn't say so many bad things about him.
Anyway, I chose the skill of ni-to-kenjutsu, which is the skill of fighting with two swords at once. I chose it based on the cover (that's my cover, the one above), assuming at some point I'd have to face an undead samurai with two swords. I chose well - Sword of the Samurai is a hard, relentless non-stop barrage of battles, few of which are easy. I rolled 10-24-9, which was pretty good, but the ni-to-kenjutsu certainly came in handy. I went down to a single stamina point on more than occasion!
Heading off, I went west, planning to go through the 'Forest of Shadows'. Typical Allansian name I thought, kind of glad nothing was named in Japanese or I'd have no idea what I was in for. In this case, I was prepared for shadows, but came across a wingless dragon. More on that later.
First I came across a burning village, and being a samurai, figured I should probably do something. It would be the honourable thing to do, after all, and seeing as I had an honour score, I decided buggering off would only lead to the dark side.
A bandit fighting for the warlord Tientsen attacked me on the way there, it was a tough fight but I prevailed. Stamina was in short supply, so I sat to eat two meals. I wonder how many died while I was sitting around eating? It's not like the book punishes you though, so it didn't matter really. The village was in some kind of quantam state, you could say - the number of villagers raped and pillaged wouldn't change regardless of how long it took me to get there!
When I did though, I challenged each of the bandits to a one-on-one duel, not so much because it'd be honourable, but 'cause I didn't want to fight an entire brigade of bandits. It was a bluff, you could say, but they took it. I easily slayed three, the rest ran away, and the villagers caught one - Moichi - whose life I spared. He became my annoying sidekick, and much to his dismay, I decided to raid his former master's castle and avenge the village.
What was my original mission again? Meh! By now I was just looking to get as high an honour score as possible.
We lied our way past a bunch of guards, which were basically hairy, ugly and fat orcs but to keep in the spirit of the book were called shikome. According to Wikipedia, a shikome was a 'fierce and wild woman'. Maybe these guards were fiercer, wilder and more lesbian than others?
Anyway, they led us into the castle, we slayed them, but Moichi was wounded. We then found Tientsen, killed his bodyguards and then him, and Moichi got wounded again. I decided to eat some more food, but didn't give Moichi any - I would have, but the book didn't say how. That must have been an awkward moment.
I slipped on Tientsen's armour, which was described to me as being far 'superior' to my previous armour, but it's not like the book gave me a bonus at all. I might've been stingy not giving Moichi any food, but I wasn't the only one!
Next thing we know, we meet a forty-foot centipede, which I assume must've been common in medieval Japan...? It bit off Moichi's arm, and no amount of food was going to fix that, so I felt justified (but not exactly honourable) in not giving him any. If he needed food that badly, he should have bought his own.
After killing the centipede, I found a few objects - a helmet, some liquid and a fan. The fan was pretty and harmless, and the liqiud restored my stamina like a Red Bull. I figured in a bunch of items like this, there's always going to be one bad thing, and my fighting was pretty solid, so left the helmet.
So! Onto the Forest of Shadows, finally. To be honest, the rest of the book went so quickly I would've felt ripped off had I paid $20 for this back in the day and not gone to Tientsen's castle.
In the forest, I was approached by the aforementioned wingless dragon, and asked to solve the following riddle:
Now, according to americanheritage.com (what the hell is an American riddle doing in a Japanese-style fantasy world?) the answer to the riddle is 'egg'. Which is weird, because that's not the answer I guessesd, which was 'pearl', but adding up the numbers (A=1, B=2, etc) I turned to a page where the wingless dragon congratulated me on my success. I'm as confused as you are.
Anyway, wandering on I fought an undead samurai (well, what do you know), then was besieged by six skeletons, but I was able to position myself so I'd only have to fight three at a time. I love how in FF whenever you're attacked by a large group, it's always in a narrow hall, or a corner, or a doorway, so you only have to fight one at a time, or at least less than the entire group. On this occasion, I was on a narrow bridge, and only had to fight three at a time. Strangely enough, they came in two groups of three - so the second three waited for me to dispatch the previous gang, instead of replacing them as they went. How kind.
Still, down to one stamina point I decided to camp out amongst the bones and eat four meals. I assume in medieval fantasy parallel Japan all food comes in some kind of astronaut form.
Next up I'm in space somehow, surrounded by doors and being challenged by something or someone called Dai-Oni. I have to challenge him and his creatures, but first I get to collect my own creatures, Pokemon-style, by going through different doors into parallel universes and collecting creatures through honour, skill, previous findings, etc etc. It all sounds incredibly stupid and fake, and it is in a way, but it works somehow. I end up with a winged lion (the dragon must be pretty dam jealous), the wingless dragon, a sabre-toothed tiger and the Golden Company, a troop of soldiers.
Onto the battle, Dai-Oni sends in a toad - I send in the tiger, and it wins easily. He sends in a giant mantis, which is easily defeated by my wingless dragon. At this rate, I'll be Pokemon champion, I mean defeat him no worries!
Next thing, the book asks me which I want to use next - which is weird, cause it seems to know exactly what I would have. Weird, I must've chosen the exact perfect path out of all the options. Nice. The Golden Company then kill his giant, Gargantus, and I go up against Dai-Oni - me SK10, ST11, him SK10, ST10. Lucky dice rolls get me past him relatively unscarred, and in his dying breath he grants me one wish.
Hmmm - reverting to my honourable ways, I, Darth Vader-style, ask him to join or assist me in my quest. He gives me two luck, which I didn't really need, and dies. Hmmm.
Onto Ikiru, who makes a similar offer to me - join him and rule, or die. I choose to die. Well, I didn't have much choice - my high honour prevented me from joining the dark side, and my low stamina prevented me from staying alive once we began fisticuffs.
Oh yeah, that, and the loss of 2 SK, 4 ST and 2 luck that immediately preceded the 'battle'. Talk about a crap way to end, it left a real sour taste coming this far only to be mortally crippled right before the final battle. I was out of food (would I be allowed to eat here?) and reduced to a single stamina point. Some ending.
Maybe if I knew the secret of the Singing Sword I wouldn't have ended so ingloriously - but a quick check reveals that there was a 1-in-3 chance of getting this info (I won't say where from) which is a bit tough, really. The pre-fight docking of points all but renders the final battle impossible considering what has come before it otherwise!
So, all-in-all, it wasn't too bad, if a little heavy on the fighting, dice-rolling side of things. I did like the inclusion of a riddle that required real-world smarts, even if I fluked a wrong answer that happened to add up, haha!
If you're wondering why I didn't post last weekend, it's cause I held a Star Wars ultramarathon for my birthday, so my entire Saturday (10am till just past midnight) was taken up with Star Wars. And yes, it was totally worth it.