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.