Saturday, 3 January 2009

#49 - Siege of Sardath

The latter-day FF gamebooks were generally more complex in their structure and gameplay, and Siege of Sardath is no exception. There are numbered items, time, puzzles and clues galore - one even, as you'll read below, hidden in a picture with no reference from the text.


So you're a town councillor/professional adventurer (there can't be too many of those nowadays) who resides in Grimmund, next to the ominously named Forest of Night. Something not quite right is happening in the forest, and it's your job to find out what it is and put a stop to it.

In perhaps one of the best introduction-first paragraph segues in all of FF, you're discussing the issue with the other councillors, when suddenly one of them is revealed to be an imposter, some kind of shape-changing dark Bat-elf thing. Having rolled some excellent stats, I quickly dispatch him and ransack his corpse of a few random, who-knows-why-I'd-need-them-if-this-wasn't-FF vials. Before he revealed his true self he was suggesting we lead a small army into the forest, so we instead decide to do the opposite and just send one, me, in alone, Lost-style (I've been doing revision in preperation for the imminent season five, as in watching all of seasons one to four, so excuse me if I make further references - it's on the brain).

Stormsday. I decide before leaving to check in with the local astrologer, who tries out a new trick, summoning up some guy called Suma whose presence tells me to find this tomb, an amulet, and not the attention of the Flyers. Alrighty then!

Leaving town, a trader offers me a buunch of potions and things, of which I pick up pegasus feathers, 'cause they're numbered much like the vials I found on Bat-elf, and a love potion. I can't afford the good shit, so stick with love potion #2, which is apparently: 1 oz Stoli Ohranj vodka, 1/2 oz Chambord, Raspberry liqueur and 1/2 oz cranberry juice.

I sail up the river, getting off at the rope bridge and heading west. I soon arrive at Ash Cleeve, an elven village. I'm greeted by my old friend Sorrel - or am I? The text describes him as having a scar across his right eye, but the illustration clearly shows it on his left, so unless the illustrator drew him as if he was looking into a mirror, something wasn't quite right. When he accused me of being an imposter, I took action, placing my fate in the hands of the FF sub-editing department.

I fired off an arrow and his disguise wore off - 'Sorrel' was an imposter, and quickly slain by the other elves. They let me crash the night, and I head off northwest the next morning - Moonsday.

It's soon Fireday, and the text tells me I detect a 'blackness' hanging over Lake Sardmere - funny, 'cause there's no Lake Sardmere on my map. Speaking of which, whoever drew my map has a serious thing for spiders. I used to draw sea serpents on world maps as a kid though, so I suppose it's not that weird.

Turns out Lake Sardmere is beneath the titular Sardath, so it's just that my map is out of date. I get there, and the city itself doesn't look worth besieging, but there's a sailor struggling with her boat who I help out. She rewards me with a brass key, tells me to find this giant in the mountains to the north. Goddamnit, I thought Sardath was the focal point of this book! Misleading, to say the least.

I reach the mountains and find evidence the others have an army. Why I'm on this mission alone, I'm not sure anymore... particularly when I'm heading up the mountain, go into a cave and die because I don't have a certain companion who can speak Elvish. Damn intolerant demons...

This part of the book did get a little confusing though. At one point the book asked if I was following a 'runnel'. I thought no, I've not heard of this 'runnel', and was told I was dead. Huh? I turned to the other page, and discovered a runnel is a stream, which I was told to follow earlier in the book by the sailor, but was given no option to once I arrived at the mountain. I thought fuck it, I was following the stream, and was killed in another way anyway. Ah well.

So Siege of Sardath - not bad, I felt like I'd gotten quite far into the book without much trouble, and seemed to be making good time and collecting a fair few items; but the difficulty suddenly levelled up and left me for dead. It definitely has an atmosphere, and is well written and apart from the part above which left me scratching my head a bit, seems well put-together. 

But hey, I'm sure I said long ago I remember preferring the later books for consistency, at the very least. No more Sky Lords...

12 comments:

Stuart said...

I liked this book. The combats weren't too hard and the final confrontation involves saying the right things. I liked the numbered potions too. That was a good idea.

Gamebook Fanatic said...

I like this too. Tricky, but not too hard once you figure out the puzzles. This writer uses a lot of hidden mechanisms like Steve Jackson does. I like the way the numbered ingredients are used, too, a really original concept.

Pity that this seems to the the only FF book the author has written (unless he wrote under other names)....

Alan said...

Spotted Moonrunner on Ebay, being sold on your side of the planet, at least: http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Fighting-Fantasy-48-Moonrunner_W0QQitemZ190279129822QQcmdZViewItemQQptZAU_Books_Childrens_New?hash=item190279129822&_trksid=p3286.m63.l1177

Alan said...

Hmm, seems the URL for Moonrunner was too long for your comments box. Well, just go to Ebay and search Books for it. Says it's there until 19th.

Dan said...

Cheers Alan - the link in my email worked, but unfortunately they want not only $AU10 for the book, but $AU10 for the postage! That adds up to about $NZ30. Ouch.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Thanks for your kind words. Had a crap day at my council desk job and this cheered me up.

I only checked to see if google had published it and to claim my pittance and I lucked upon your blog.

And no, no more books - sales were too pitiful.

Keith

dan duran said...

Keith - thanks for commenting, I've had a newborn baby crying all night, and having the author comment has cheered me up, haha. It's the circle of life, or something.

tt5 said...

This was a real toughie for me. It doesn't allow much margin for error. Really well written too.

Andrew said...

I recall this one being staggeringly tough. It was particularly evil for dooming you hundreds of paragraphs before you actually died (as far as I could see, the wrong decision right at the beginning of the book meant you couldn't complete it, but you wouldn't find this out until near the end).
But the plot was quite cool.

James said...

This was pretty much my favourite as a kid. As the others say, very difficult but surprisingly non-linear (there are two ways to get the Brass Key, for instance, which is essential to complete the adventure), and with a lot of clues hidden in the narrative (like the Sorrel cheek scar thing).

The plot and atmosphere are strong as well.

James said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention the final encounter! It's lots of fun- involves matching wits with the enemy and tricking him into sealing his doom.

FightingFantasyFan said...

This one drove my crazy for days, before I realized that I had written down those items wrongly from page 1. The blood was a powder, so I hadn't been using it properly at the potion-o-matic. After days of cussing at this book, I realized how brilliant it was.

The anti-cheating mechanisms in here are very well-thought out, with no hope that you can just say "yeah, I have that thing" If you haven't done the thing, you won't ever know to turn the page or find out what you didn't get right.

The timing of how you need to get through the forest as quickly as possible, the red herrings, and the eldritch non-Euclidean city, ... Absolutely brilliant.

http://www.fightingfantasyfan.info/siege-of-sardath/