Sunday, 20 November 2011

Wizard #7 - Bloodbones

So this is the first time I've played a gamebook published in the newest new FF series, and I can't go another paragraph without pointing out how impractical the shield that adorns the cover of each book would be, were you to actually be carrying it around as your #1 shield.

Those curly bits on the bottom, for starters, would continually be scratching people's legs.

Contestants in the Trial of Champions would keep trying to pry the jewels out of its umm, ears? Wings?

Not to mention it has a giant bloody great big hole in the middle large enough for a zombie pirate to step through. (Come to think of it, how big IS this shield? The hole is probably some kind of compromise between size and weight, but I'm assuming it wouldn't lower your life insurance premiums.)

The plot: when you were 12, a bloodthirsty pirate killed your family and half the village you grew up in, Clam Beach, which I'm guessing is the Allansian analogue of Home and Away's Summer Bay. (If only Alf was there to stone the flamin' crows!)

To the north of Clam Beach is the town of Harabnab, where author Jonathan Green tells us is where "all the good adventurers and sailors live". All of them. This explains why Harabnab was never mentioned in any of the previous 60 or so FF gamebooks I failed to complete!

To the south is the Port of Crabs, which is "haven to every pirate, buccaneer and freebooter" in the area. (I had to look up 'freebooter', which Wikipedia tells me is another word for 'pirate'. I wonder if this book will be about pirates?)

It's also where the titular Bloodbones has a secret base, or so says the Clam Beach soothsayer - why I'm trusting a prophet who couldn't foresee the rape and pillage of his hometown I don't know. How is he still alive? If Auckland had an official soothsayer on the payroll, and one day the 50 or so volcanoes this city is built on decided to erupt and he'd not given us a warning - no matter how cryptic - if I was boss, he'd be fired. Or thrown into the nearest lava stream, which I'd hope would be through Epsom. Fuck Epsom.

But Clam Beach's prophet's name is 'Raguy' which is too close to 'Raygun' to ignore, so I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Bloodbones isn't his real name though - it's just what his detractors call him. His real name is Cinnabar, which Wikipedia tells me is a "common ore of mercury". If I was Cinnabon, I'd totally play up the Bloodbones angle, but I don't think that's the case here.

Anyway, In true FF style the first thing I do on arrival in the Port of Crabs is check out the local bar scene. The barman tells me Cinnamon is dead, but a drunk hints that's not actually the case. He won't tell me any more 'cause it's not safe, but will in 10 minutes outside in a dark alley.

Outside the bar, I'm confronted by two decrepit old men - I can tell by their SKILL scores - and a half-ogre, half-something that isn't specified but I'll assume is retard by the way he lets the two old me fight me while he just watches.

Dutch courage from the bar makes it a no-brainer to rush them, they put up no fight, and the drunk from the bar tells me with his dying words what I suspected from the title of the book - Cinnabar is alive - he just had a flesh wound all along. A flesh wound that killed him, but was healed with some kind of voodoo - somewhere in Harabnab, some noble but ill-advised adventurer was pulling pins out of a doll or something.

One of the odd things with these new FF books is that they pre-generate a few characters for you to choose from if you're too lazy to roll some dice. Even stranger, the instructions at the front of the book say if you're new to FF, you might as well just start reading the book - without actually learning the rules, creating a character, buying the cheapest boardgame you can find so that you have two dice... it's just bizarre.

Experienced users on the other hand are pointed to the back of the book where the rules are explained. WTF? It makes less sense than the fucking jazz-hands pointy bits on the bottom of the cover shield.

Even stranger, of the three characters on offer, only two had their entire families killed by Cinnabar - Griffin Teague's entry only mentions his "father's killer", which doesn't say much for Clam Beach's suffrage movement. It also says he's tracked down Bloodbone's lair, which suggests this generic character made it further than I did before the book even began.

Anyway, I decided to give a generic character a go and chose Bronwyn Ravenblade, 'cause I thought I might find awkward plot points where the book assumed I was a 12-year-old boy playing a manly hero, but I wasn''t. I didn't.

Bronwyn's apparently good at gambling, so off to the Gambling Pit! It's guarded by what the book calls "two Troll guards", so I decided to ignore anything they told me. One of the things they told me was, "remember, no fighting".

Ignoring this when confronted with a cheat card 'magician' got me thrown out of the Gambling Pit. Damn trolls.

Before I got thrown out though I won some money playing "Calibrius's Calculator", which was essentially spotting a pattern in a series of numbers that would "baffle the greatest minds in Ruddlestone". Ruddlestone must be a shithole, 'cause I solved the problem in three seconds. And that's why the internet says I have an IQ of 153 - after drinks - when I know for reals it's about half that.

Bloodbones uses a codeword system to keep track of a player's actions. It's effective yet hilariously transparent, and would get your email hacked in a few seconds. In the Gambling Pit I overheard a couple of pirates say Cinnabar's ship was due to sail for Bone Island at midnight - and had to write down 'DNALSI'.

So, getting kicked out of the Gambling Pit also lost me my sword, so I went to the markets and bought a new one, this time a cutlass - when in Rome, etc. I also bought some 'gas globes', 'cause they sound hilarious, and FF could do with an injection of humour at times (why'd you think I started this blog?).

I'm then approached by a 'gaunt and scrawny' old man with stubble, an eye-patch, a stump for a leg and a monkey who wants to tell me something. (EDIT: The man wants to tell me something,not the monkey. Though if it had the power of speech I'm sure the monkey would have plenty to say.) The picture opposite is of a woman whom appears to be taking part in some kind of Brazilian street party, which gives mixed signals. Was Ravenblade a lesbian?

The old man though is for real, as I learn a few paragraphs later - there's a picture of him flinging a dagger with his monkey literally breaking the fourth wall.

The next notable event in my wandering around the Port of Crabs is walking past a cartographer's office. Yeah, in this hive of scum and villainy, a cartographer has set up shop. He won't tell me anything useful until I bribe him, which leads me to question his business acumen. Does he not sell maps? Or does he only work on bribes?

Bone Island apparently lies 370 leagues east of the Port of Crabs, which is conveniently less than 400.

Next I decide to go visit the governor, if only to see if there is actually anyone governing this silly place. The guard's easily bribed, but the governor himself is strangely uncorruptible - he doesn't believe me there's an undead pirate fucking about in the bay, and kicks me out.

I wouldn’t be so worried about this sequence of events if I didn’t have to write the word ‘REGNAD’ on my adventure sheet.

My quest doesn't seem to be going well, so I head to the Temple Quarter to see if I can get some religious guidance. The big guy in this part of town is called the ‘His Excellency the Primate God of Pride’. Oh great, another monkey. Or is it Ian Brown?

It's not Ian Brown. Well, I don't know, 'cause I can't get an audience with him, and I'm broke from buying a new sword so I can't bribe an audience with him. Before this year's unexpected Stone Roses' reunion, not even $100 billion could get an audience with King Monkey.

Port of Crabs sucks more than Clam Beach and Summer Bay combined. The governor's goons catch up with me soon enough, alerted to the fact I'd illegally written the word 'DANGER' on my Adventure Sheet backwards, and chuck me in prison.

They want at least 10 gold as a bribe, which I don't have, and the head prison guard also wants 10 gold as a bribe. If I didn't have it last time, how would I have it now?

So the game ends not with my death, but my wrongful imprisonment.

Bloodbones was a good read. I'd been lead to believe it was shit, but you know what, it wasn't. I'm a little baffled by the return to the original FF font. Call me a nerd, but the font of the later books in the original series was more atmospheric. I'm not going to go any deeper than that, it's a fucking font, that's all.


My friend Jarrod who's lending me a few FF gamebooks I need to complete this blog has his own blog you can find at He describes it as "a blog about boardgaming, wargaming, painting and modeling" and that's pretty spot on. Check it out if that kind of thing tickles your fancy, floats your boat, tests your luck, and all that.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

#56 - Knights of Doom

No, it's not a thousand Z-grade black metal songs/bands, it's FF#56, Knights of Doom, in all its purple and turquoise glory.

The back story is set 100 years ago, a long time ago in a land far, far away called Ruddlestone, there was a king whose brother was jealous, and a bit of a dick.

Consumed by his hatred, the king's brother Belgaroth - though for the purposes of humour, I'm going to call him Anakin - turned to the dark side, worshipping the 'Dark Gods of Chaos' and generally trying to overthrow the king so he could rule the galaxy, err I mean Ruddlestone, with an iron fist.

He was defeated though, and not heard of again... until now.

A giant swirling vortex appeared in the sky, a gateway from our world to that of the spirits, allowing evil demons and ghosts and, presumably Zuul, to enter Ruddlestone.

Who they gonna call? ♫ GHOSTBUS... nope. You. Or in this case, me.

I'm a Knights Templar, somehow displaced from medieval Europe into the hilariously-named Ruddlestone, and despite a SKILL of 9, I'm somehow considered one of the best around. I have mean skills in Arcane Lore, Commune, Battle Tactics and Tracking, and a magic sword.

The fact that even with a magic sword my SKILL is only 9 kind of worries me, to be honest. I'm really the best the king has?

I'm not even on my way before a ghost demon thing appears on a horse, and tries to kill the king. I fight him off and kill him - with no help from anyone else in the room, the lazy bastards.

After dispatching the ghost, I get some weapons from the armory, jump on my horse 'Firemane' (isn't that now a nickname for Lindsay Lohan?) and make for the town of Wendeform.

On the way there, I'm accosted by an angry mob wielding pitchforks and torches, as if they're off to lynch a black man or something. They're led by a dude with a skull for a face in a black robe and carrying a scythe - Death, is that you? Leading a half-assed lynch mob, really? There's also a leper and Kate Moss ("... a gaunt woman, her almost skeletal body covered by a tattered cloak. It looks like she has not eaten for weeks." Actually, that could be Amy Winehouse, considering her company.)

They surround me, bitching about how everyone is poor and struggling, whilst us Knight Templars swan about in relative luxury - yep, I'm the 1 percent! I convince them I'm on their side, perhaps leaving out the fact I'm actually working for the king - the 0.0001 percent.

They buy it, and let me on my way. Heh, dumbass peasants.

Time to rest! But I wake up in the night, sensing "all is not well". How the book knows of my real-life insomnia escapes me.

It sure isn't well - there's a disembodied hand carrying a dagger trying to stab me! (This is where real life and the book part ways, don't worry.) I jump on my horse and ride away as fast as I can - there's only so fast a ghost hand can go, apparently.

(Quick aside - there's a fantastic new anti-drink driving advert on TV here in NZ that's gone viral online, largely thanks the to the immortal line, 'You know I can't grab your ghost chips.' Check it out here. Seriously, do. If when you think of NZ you imagine volcanoes, hobbits and rugby, this will put things right.)

The next morning I arrive in Wendeford, pay no heed to the time of day and hit the 'Bristling Bear' bar. The barlady tells me there's this crazy wizard dude Herluin who lives in the forest, so I trek off to meet him.

He's dead, but in his dying struggle he conveniently left a few books out I figure could help me in my quest. One's described as a 'bestiary', and the text only describes one entry - the cockatrice, a cockerel/snake/bat crossbreed thing that sounds perfect for a dark and gritty reboot of The Wuzzles. I wonder if there'll be one later in the adventure, hmmm? No really, I didn't make it that far, so I can only assume. It's not like the book was open to 'evil demon'.

The other book contains a spell for summoning an evil demon, but I don't know this until I've read it out loud, duh.

I hit the undo button, but it knocks the book out of my hand before I'm done, so a fight it is and I'm out of here.

On the way to Havalok, I'm accosted by a band of murderers - I'm not sure how I know they're murderers, since they've not yet murdered me. Is an apprentice, first-time would-be murderer still a murderer? Ironically I dispatch them all - putting an arrow in the back of the one who fled - and pinch the whopping three gold pieces they're carrying between them, which is strangely exactly how many I need to spend at the 'Red Herring' Inn that night in Havalok. Suspicious...

The next day I figure I should put that 'Battle Tactics' skill to good use, and decide to hire some mercenaries. They won't join unless I can defeat their leader in battle, and for someone who's allegedly the king's best soldier, I put in a piss-poor effort. Couldn't even hit their guy once! He's not even wearing a top and I can't get in a scratch.

In fact, I'm so lame at fighting, later that day I'm killed by a group of street performers dressed in a dragon costume.

Most embarrassing. Fighting Fantasy Death. EVER.

The king's #1 dude, entrusted with saving the land of Ruddlestone, killed by goddamn mimes. Or whatever you call a bunch of hippies dressed in a homemade dragon costume made of toilet rolls and crepe paper.

'Mimes of Doom' wouldn't have made a very good book title, though. Or would it...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

#55 - Deathmoor

It hasn't got the most inspiring cover in the world, nor the most original setting, but Deathmoor was a better read than I thought it would be.

It's a classic FF start - basic rules, nothing fancy, right down the 10 sets of provisions and a potion of your choice (I rolled 12/15/11, so that would be STAMINA, then).

The only oddity anyone skipping the rules would have missed out on was your possession of a scarlet pearl, whose only plot function appears to be to start a fight, which is as good a reason as any I can think of.

So, there's this princess who's been kidnapped by some evil dude, and she needs rescuing. Except you've been on holiday, diving for pearls and generally resting it up in some exotic part of the Old World, so don't get the message in time. Instead, the king and queen get your rival Fang-zen to deliver a message to the bad dude acceding to his demands, promising him half their kingdom if they return her in one piece.

Which is odd, since all the bad dude wants is revenue from the gold mines, which according to the princess' parents isn't exactly the be-all and end-all of their kingdom's economy.

Even stranger, they say 'half our kingdom' is the 'usual fee for such work', which makes me wonder a) how many times this has happened, and b) how big their kingdom used to be.

Since I've not got the job, I decide to go drinking. Well, the book decides that, which is fine by me. 'Several bars and several hours later' whaddya know - there's Fang-zen, drunk off his ass.

I sit down and challenge him to a game of pinfinger and win, but he's broke and can't pay up.

Instead, he gives me the contract to find the princess - literally, half a kingdom.

The bar's owner isn't happy about the knife marks we've left on his precious table, so to pay up I give him a town - just kidding, he's happy as Larry with a single gold piece. I'm such a good landlord.

It's not really my kingdom until I've rescued Princess Peach though, so onto another bar it is, of course. "You may as well carry on drinking, now that you've started!" That's what the actual book says, I'm not making that up. I like this book so much already.

The night ends as badly as many have in my real life though, buying a lice-infested heather from some old crone. I don't think the book meant a heather in the sense of a stuck-up rich girl, which is what Google tells me a heather is, but the book's already sent me on a bender which without, finishing the quest would be impossible, so who knows!

I stayed up all night, and hit the markets in the morning, probably after some fried chicken or something. Instead I came across an old-timey $2 shop, except everything cost 2GP. Bought the usual FF necessities - rope, knife, etc. And some 'sallow-seed oil', since that sounded incredibly specific.

Went to the docks, and some guys down there told me to visit the Baron, who "has a finger in every evil pie". Mmmm, evil pie.

On the way there, I was set upon by a pack of wild wolf-type things, losing a STAMINA point for every attack round the fight went on - in Deathmoor, there are a lot of fights, and almost every one has some kind of quirk like this. I liked it, as it gave each fight a point of interest, though I'm sure I would have liked it a lot less had I not rolled a SKILL of 12. Didn't even find out what most most of the consequences were, as a result, but they can't have been pretty.

I bribe my way past the Baron's guard, and just wander on in to his house, and he's a bit pissed off about that, so I charge him - with my head. Seriously? I'm carrying a sword, aren't I? Why am I charging him with my head?

Anyway, I cut him down, and he tells me the princess is being held by Arachnos (Wow, I wonder if he's a spider...) beneath Deathmoor.

His dying action is to release the bats, I run, and head off out of town. Three days without drinking later, I'm accosted by a giant, who wants to see the contract - I show him, he says he'll bring the princess back in two days, I don't believe him, and sneakily follow.

Soon enough, Fang-zen appears, and if the artwork is to be trusted, he's wearing jandals, which explains how I knew he was coming, and easily fight him off. Seriously, jandals? No wonder his SKILL is said to be two less than mine. It's a fashion penalty.

Fortunately, the book doesn't give me the option of taking the jandals, 'cause being a Kiwi, I'd probably put them on.

That night, I come across a small village, and no one really wants me to stay the night. There's a recently-burned cottage with warm blood all over it, which doesn't appeal, so I pay off a villager who watches over me all night carrying a poker - and I don't think he was carrying a hand of cards.

Despite this, I apparently sleep well, and the next day, reach Deathmoor. The first fight there is against a couple of Blackhearts - no, not Joan Jett's band - a Dark Elf/Orc cross. I didn't even know they could breed.

Heading south, I find a sign with letters missing - it reads 'P___OUS WELL'. Ooh, a pious well! Err, probably not. The book then has me heading west, through the fog and up a hill, telling me, 'If you carry on climbing, in as (sic) straight as line as possible, you can't go wrong, can you?'

Well, from real life experience, no, you can go wrong. Very, very wrong.

Next I find the pious well, assume it's another form of piousness - poison - and leave it well alone (see what I did there?).

The next encounter was with a bird of some kind, not very interesting, found its nest, blew a whistle, ran away into a cave, fought a spider, went further into the cave, found a pool of lava, and fell in and died.

Killed by a bad dice roll.

I know it all sounds very random, but it was an enjoyable book to read. I had an impression I was actually doing quite well until I rolled a bad number too, which is a little disappointing - hence the rushed end, since I'm a little pissed off - but them's the breaks.

The writing had a dry kind of humour to it you don't often find in FF gamebooks, and despite its cliched yet nonsensical plot, the writing and variation in encounters made it a page-turner.

Now, I've read a bit about the ending of the book being very disappointing - as in you have to solve a fiendishly difficult maths problem, then get all of a few lines describing your victory - and it's not even on page 400!

One of the writers on that link in the previous paragraph even said he passed "all my maths exams at school with flying colours", which I find a little hard to believe. I skimmed the paragraphs until I found the problem, and it took me only a few minutes to work out in my head - and I'm 14 years out of school!

*semi-spoiler* Most of the numbers are red herrings; I assumed the lowest amount of time he'd divide his life into is a year, then multiplied the highest numbers he gave - 12 and seven. This gave 84. I'm not even sure if this was the correct method to be honest, nor can I recall the proper names of any mathematical process involved, but it just seemed right... and it was!***

Then again, I was the captain of a region-wide maths competition-winning team... when I was 11. That 11-year-old could have solved it in 30 seconds, and told you how he did it, and then described how when he was older he was going to be an astronaut and captain of the All Whites football team. I think in solving Deathmoor's puzzle I just got lucky, the more I think about it...


I came across this blog the other day, I've only had a quick glance, but it seems to be pretty much the same premise as this one - guy gets a batch of old FF gamebooks, plays 'em through, makes jokes, achieves everlasting internet fame.

The catch is it seems he spends a lot more time than I do writing his entries, so they're much funnier than mine in a lot of ways. Lucky I only have a few books left to do, huh? I spend about an hour doing mine, max. It probably shows! Anyway, check it out.

(His FF gamebook collection came in "two wine boxes". I think mine came in a single, large banana box, so he's already off to a better start.)


My friend Jarrod who's lending me the last few FF gamebooks I need to complete this blog has his own blog you can find at He describes it as "a blog about boardgaming, wargaming, painting and modeling" and that's pretty spot on. Check it out if that kind of thing tickles your fancy, floats your boat, tests your luck, and all that.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

#59 - Curse of the Mummy

Curse of the Mummy is ridiculous. It's the only gamebook I've written about so far (and I've written about almost all of them now) which I had to play three times (in less than 45 minutes) in order to get enough material.

After rolling SKILL 7, STAMINA 19 and LUCK 7, if I'd known any better (perhaps by reading past reviews) I wouldn't have bothered leaving the tavern the book begins in. Apparently it's impossible without maximum stats, maximum luck with the dice and a minimum of playing by the rules.

Anyway, you start the adventure as a broke mercenary who's just washed up in the town of Rimon after your ship was suck by pirates. To earn a bit of cash, you meet a dodgy guy with a moustache and sign up for a mission which is literally to save the world from the resurrection of some ancient Egyptian (but not Egyptian, this is Titan after all) pharoah.

And instead of hiring Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger, he gets me, a guy with so little skill and luck, I'd probably be likely to kill myself refilling my jug at the bar.

(The book's intro throws in a reference to Atlantis for some reason, which would be baffling if Titan didn't already have a Japanese region that isn't Japan and an area suspiciously like the Middle East. This mummy apparently dates from before the sinking of Atlantis, when the three continents of Khul were one - hundreds of millions of years I assume - which means this book really should have been called Curse of the Long Buried Fossil.)

So just hired, my boss Jerran and I leave the bar, and are set on immediately by a few of the fossil Akharis' followers. I take the leader, that being a thing a guy with a skill of 7 does, and he takes one of the others. I stumble, and he puts his hands around my throat, but I manage to shake him off thanks to my dice, who've decided to be nice - for now.

We kill two of them, and a third flees into the crowd. We give chase, but there's some clown down the road who decides to release his fucking black lion just as we're passing by, and it kills me.

Long-time readers of this blog will know by now if I'm killed before I've even finished my first drink, I start again. This time, I roll SKILL 7, LUCK 7... oh fuck. FFFFFUUUU... what are the chances of that happening twice? 0.07 percent, that's what. (incidentally, (1/36)x(1/36) is 0.000771604938, which is the conversion rate for square inches into square yards. Coincedence? Yes.)

Play #2: We let the cult members run away, and Jerran gives me 30 gold - so instead of quitting while I'm ahead, we go shopping.

I buy some rope and grapple (always comes in handy), lantern (yep), a healing potion (my SKILL is 7), poison antidote (obvious), a torch (bound to rummaging around in dark tombs) and of course, a crystal pyramid (rarely a gamebook goes past without me needing a crystal pyramid).

And lots of food. At one point in the book I'm told to eat two meals or lose 2 STAMINA for each meal. How about I skip two meals, then eat one to offset the hunger? Author wasn't thinking.

Heading out of town, we make camp, and are attacked by a giant scorpion which has either a SKILL of 8 or 10 - the text has both - and has two attacks per attack round, and the ability to administer poison. WTF? Already? So I roll over and die again.

I'd only been reading the book about 15 minutes at this point, so let's pretend I won that battle with a flawless victory, and keep on going, eh?

Jerran can't do the same though, he's dead, no second - or third - chances. The book tells me I bury him the next morning, which I can only assume means I needed someone to spoon that night. Why else would I sleep with a corpse?

Heading towards the Shaman of the Spirit Rock ('cause pseudo-American Indian characters belong in a Titan-based gamebook about Egyptian mummies and Greek mythology) I eventually come across some roadside succulents. Forgetting for a second the book keeps a poison rating, I eat some, and it's poison. Of course. It's called 'barbthorn' I'm told, which would have been a good thing to know BEFORE I ate it.

My next obstacle is a group of rock-throwing bloody baboons. I fight a couple of them, then the leader (whom I called 'Caesar', of course) and the dice are especially kind, scaring the crap out of the others who flee.

With a whopping 3 STAMINA, I climb up the Spirit Rock (yay, rope and grapple) and meet Lopar, the Shaman - whom of course has a dog's head. He asks me a riddle I get on the first try (hint: ♫ Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day... ♫) and he tells me I'll need lots of magic shit to beat Akharis. No shit, sherlock. I gain a solitary LUCK point for this wondrous insight, and head on.

(He did say something about a 'Demon Prince Sith' though, just to throw another culture from a long time ago into the mix).

The next day, I find a ruined temple type thing which reminds me less of ancient Egypt and more of the one from Lost where Ben's "judged" by ***spoiler*** the Man in Black. Anyway.

There's a map there I'm meant to understand, and I don't, so it's game over. Not sure if there's a key, or a clue from a previous paragraph or what, but I have no idea what the answer is. Sure, I found it within 10 seconds by flicking through the book, but I've already died twice and thrice is pushing the rules of the blog a bit far, so I call it a night.

It was only then I read those previous reviews and realised I was probably lucky to get as far as I did with SKILL and LUCK of 7! Twice.


My friend Jarrod who's lending me the last few FF gamebooks I need to complete this blog has his own blog you can find at He describes it as "a blog about boardgaming, wargaming, painting and modeling" and that's pretty spot on. Check it out if that kind of thing tickles your fancy, floats your boat, tests your luck, and all that.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

#58 - Revenge of the Vampire

After reading Revenge of the Vampire, something was bugging me. It didn't seem this vampire had anything to avenge, until I realised it's a sequel to Vault of the Vampire - replayed here - which has an almost identical cover. Hey, it's been a few years since I played that one.

Book 58, second to last, of the original FF series, and you could tell the publishers weren't giving too much of a fuck. The adventure sheet has three skill boxes instead of skill, stamina and luck, and the instructions talk about 'magic points', which as far as I can tell, there are none of in the book itself.

And there's the almost identical cover, but anyway...

I roll 11/20/7, with 4 'faith' - it's as if the dice know I'm an unlucky heathen.

The book also makes you keep a 'blood' score, which I initially thought was going to be a measure of literally how much blood I have, like in litres, but was more a measure of time, luck, and whatever else author Keith Martin felt like throwing in there at the time. Or luck, or whatever else....

Long story short, there's a vampire you have to kill... again. Setting off with a backpack bursting with 12 meals - none of them cheese, I hope, for reasons I'll explain soon - I'm thrown in the deep end, stealing a dead guy's gold and being run out of town.

I'm soon at the house of Sewarth, a monk who knows a thing or two about this Count Heydrich, but he's out - and no one seems to know why.

I don't trust his housesitters, and tell them so, but the book makes me stay the night anyway.
Not surprisingly I can't sleep, so decide to go chat to the creepiest housesitter, Endrell. He's not in his room, so naturally, it's time for snooping! Bad idea. Endrell catches me, sends me to bed without any supper, and gives me a "herbal nightcap".

Now, in real life, I'm suffering a pretty bad dose of insomnia, and know for sure that herbal crap doesn't work. In the book it does, so I'm guessing it's some kind of Allansian magic the doctor's here cant' prescribe. Like marijuana.

Turns out it's poison, and I'm dead.

Now, if you've read this blog before, you'll know this falls under my 'too short, not enough for a blog' rule, so backtracking to before I searched his room...

Endrell walks in, and sends me to bed with 'thin soup'. Hungry, I get up, and look for something to eat. I soon come across the dining room, but aren't given the option to go in (probably 'cause I'm carrying a backpack bursting with provisions, but still no cheese), so I pick a random door.

It's a prayer room, so what the hell, I decide to pray. The book tells me this time wasting costs me a blood point, which begs the question, what the hell god am I praying to?

It then tells me I should turn to page 381, if my 'hands are clean'. After that prayer session I'm not so sure! Anyway, following a trail of blood I find a ghoul monk, kill it, but am injured in the process - and by injured, I mean infected with 'bloodbane', which proceeds to drain my stamina - and initial stamina - luckily, this part of Allansia is overflowing with excess food (cheese still to come).

Next I find the kitchen, which for some ungodly reason has a trapdoor, where I find some of Sewarth's notes, telling me to find a 'Soul Gem'. It also has a smudged, unreadable map, which I assume was left there by some previous FF gamer.

I also gain two blood points - guessing Sewarth left a vial of it here?

Moving on, I'm heading out of town chasing this suspicious character riding in a horse-pulled carriage, and the only horse I can find costs me 'all' my gold. What kind of economy is this? Sounds commy.

In the morning, I catch up - he's heading into a bar. Fuckin' eh. I decline to go in, just hanging out in a local ditch for the night, sleeping in the day, as you do. Come evening, this guy I've no idea who he is, is leaving, and I need my horse, but the guys at the stable won't give him back. They want this thing called 'payment' - again with the socialism - which I can't provide, having spent all my money on the damn horse. So I kill them, take the hit in faith points, take their food (still no damn cheese) and head off.

A couple of lines of illegible note-taking later, I'm hanging with a dude called Sandar, who's wearing a sweet amulet. He's insane, but not after I snatch off his amulet.

Anyway, I need to find Crab Peak, which is where ye olde Count Heydrich is, and it takes me 10 blood points of time to find someone who knows. Um, okay...

Turns out, it sits in the middle of the 'Plains of Analand', near 'The Great Wall'. Both of these things are on the map at the front of the book, but a giant fucking mountain the middle of the plains isn't? Who drew this map? A FF gamer?

I get to Crab Peak, and there's a few old witches arguing. How do I know they're witches? Well, they're old, cranky and female - that's about all the evidence the book's giving me anyway.

I sneak into the mountain, and soon come across a room with 20 decaying dwarfs and an 'evil' monolith. I don't have 'Oil of Enchantment', a 'heart-shaped gem' or a 'magic sword', so can't do much.

Except kill the local witch and raid her treasures of gold and PRESERVED CHEESE! Finally, some goddamn cheese! Time to go through the ominous magical barrier? Nah, onto fight the other witch.

Easy fight, more gold (I could buy so many horses, if this were a capitalist society) and the book forces me on to this mansion, which I'm guessing belongs to the Count (one, one mansion, muahaha).

Another long story short, I end up in a room full of "weird" jars, with a "palpable sense of evil" in the air. So of course I'm going to smash a jar! Starting with an empty one, of course.
Nothing happens.

A dusty one? I lose one meal's worth of stamina due to a "freeze". Not given the option to open with stars and shit, 'cause it's "not wise".

A few doors later, I come across a mad scientist. He has a cure for everything - literally. The page says I drink his concoction, and I'm cured of whatever I have. I'm almost tempted to go find this guy in real life.

So I kill him, 'cause you know, he wants me to leave after performing his miracle cure, and find more cheese. Sweeet.

He also has these potions lying around, so I drink something called 'essence'. Turns out its effects are somewhat of a dice roll - lol - so I spend some luck to help it out. I lose one stamina. I guess I was drinking light beer?

Several battles with ghouls and zombies later - one fight is literally against 'more ghouls' - I come to Count Heydrich's quarters... where I die 'cause I dont' have a magic sword.

As if there's no other way to kill a vampire!

Right. So, it sounds like I've been pretty hard on this book, but it wasn't that bad. It just never seemed like I was in control of anything. I could tell early on it was one of those adventures where certain items would be vital - eg the book I saw in my ill-fated first attempt, which I had to pretend (several times) I hadn't seen in the second - and if I didn't have said items, it was a futile effort.

That's the flaw in these complicated adventure gamebooks - because it relies on asking if I have certain items, so often, I get an idea I'm going to fail pretty early on.

Still, I could see the depth was there - the game was long, even though I didn't have anywhere near the necessary number of items or amount of information to complete it, and I got to (I guess?!) the final boss without too much trouble - apart from the early death - but there were a lot of fights. A LOT of fights. Anything less than skill 11 and I would have been screwed.

A last question - why the hell weren't there any silver-plated stakes lying around? And why so much cheese, when what I needed was garlic?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

#57 - Magehunter

Miss me? No? Alright then.

An old friend got in touch over Facebook, and has kindly agreed to loan me the FF books he's got that I don't, which is awesome. He's a collector, but has a couple of gaps he'd like to fill - so if you've got copies of FF55 or 56 you don't want, leave a comment on this entry and I'll put you in touch.

Okay! Now that's out of the way, let's take a look at Magehunter.

The basic premise is you're a hunter of mages (no wai!), but really wacky mages in particular. I say this, 'cause the book opens with a document called 'The Most Revered Treatise of MAGE HUNTING', which lists a bunch of magician rules that makes shit like "In Philadelphia, you can't put pretzels in bags" sound completely reasonable.

For example: "Wizards do not eat fish." Obviously wizards in this book don't listen to Nirvana, 'cause everyone knows it's okay to eat fish ('cause they don't have any feelings).

Or how about: "Every 101st footprint left by a mage is that of a cat." What, a cat paw print? Or a human footprint, but cat-shaped? Be more specific, Treatise! I want to know what to expect when I next see a cat-shaped imprint on the lawn.

And: "A hound which is fed for a week on nothing but goats meat may sniff out the scent of a wizard." I like how you can go to the effort of feeding your hound nothing but goat for a week, and there's still a chance he might not sniff out a wizard. Back to eating Chump, Rover.

Anyway. There's this particularly naughty mage called Mencius whom you capture just as the book begins, but that won't fill 400 pages, so of course he gets away.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, there's the small matter the Adventure Sheet contains three skill boxes. Now, I know people like to say rolling 12 for their skill is a skill in itself - and some seem to be suspiciously good at it - but doing it three times? Turns out it's a printing error. So is the fact my potential companion has a box for his/her provisions, but I don't. Not like I need to eat, is it? Not even fish!

Funnily enough, I do actually roll a skill and luck of 12, thanks to lucky red die. I used the white die for my starting gold stash, and got a 2. Fuck you, white die. And fuck you companion, whoever you were meant to be, 'cause you never showed up. Anyway, getting ahead of myself.

So! Mencius escapes, kidnapping the heir to the something or rather, and I have to get him back. He's vanished down some magic portal inside a crack in the earth, conveniently disguised by a simultaneously-occurring earthquake. Us here in New Zealand have learned a thing or two about earthquakes in the past year (yes, even those of us up in Auckland), and not even Ken Ring says jumping into a seismic crack is a good idea.

Mencius conveniently leaves his spell book behind, so I'm able to learn how he did it, and create my own wormhole. Where will I end up? Lucky red die rolls me a 2, and on the other side I've suddenly aged 10 years, and find myself standing on a cliff edge over Mencius' dead body.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Nice one, lucky red die!

Not so fast... I still need to find that idiot who got himself kidnapped in the first place, I guess. I have the option of climbing a mountain or following a river, so I choose to follow the river 'cause that song by Lykke Li about following rivers keeps getting stuck in my head. In real life, not the book, 'cause that would be weird.

I come across a town, with "towers... with tops like onions", populated by "strange dark people" dressed in "silk", who speak in an "incomprehensible guttural gabble" which gives me a headache.

Woah, holy pre-911 book, Batman.

Anyway, despite finding myself in what is essentially pre-Renaissance Constantinople, I manage to find a sweet bar and befriend a drunk bearded man, Al-Bakbuk. He teaches me a bit of the local lingo - probably mostly insults and pick-up lines - so as a gift, I decide to give him this ring I found earlier. I should have guessed giving it a quick clean would summon a genie.

The genie teaches me the rest of the "guttural" language, which is pretty awesome, and Al-Bakbuk gives me a turban, which is, um, "Cool... it's a turban. Thanks..."

Anyway, I head out shopping to find better shit than a stupid turban, but it's all a ripoff, so I head to the city of Kallamehr to find Al-Bakbuk's brother, Al-Fakik. Al-Fakik tells me to see a guy whose name doesn't begin with Al. Saleem. I'll apparently know him when I see him, 'cause he has a monkey on his shoulder. What, all the time? When does the monkey poo?

(Speaking of odd rules, here's another gem from the Treatise: "If submerged in water, a sorcerer's body will swell to twice its size." Does that also apply to witches? 'Cause that would have helped the peasants from that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail no end... Ni!)

I don't bother, instead checking out this awesome tower I caught in the corner of my eye. On arrival, that heir to the thing I mentioned earlier's there, except it's not him - it's Mencius, what a twist! - so I unleash my language-teaching genie and run away. I know I'm carrying a gun with bullets capable of killing wizards (takes a silver bullet in this book, because... it's not explained, but I'm going assume they're all part werewolf), but I'm not given the option to shoot.

I go to the authorities, 'cause maybe they'll have the option to shoot to kill, but they're not convinced anything's the matter.

Now, one thing this book does a lot - and fairly well, from what I could tell in my particular journey - is getting the player to take notes, write down words, make marks on their Adventure Sheet - which affects the gameplay and plot. It's pretty cool, except I could see in the text that adding too many "x" marks would lead to a "fame" note, and that can NOT be good to get.

So I decided to go after Mencius, which was a bad idea. He unleashed a whole lot of skeletons on me, and the genie didn't show up, 'cause I bailed on him earlier. DEAD is me.

Which sucks, 'cause I was quite enjoying Magehunter. It's well-written, unpredictable, and as far as I could tell, on the winning side of the fine line dividing" WTF" with "WTF, this sucks". After reading it I did a bit of a Google, and it seems I might be alone in thinking this.

And I just realised I think I only made a single die roll in the entire adventure, which is kind of cool, but kind of annoying, since I spent 10 minutes earlier this evening trying to find my damn dice, whilst trying not to attract the attention of a toddler that was refusing to go to sleep.

I must have got 'lucky'.

So! That was Magehunter. Big ups to Jarrod for the loan, and hopefully I'll be back in the near future with FF58. Till then... remember this: "Dressing a sorcerer in undyed cloth will tie him to the earth."