Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Round 2: City of Thieves

Last time I read City of Thieves, I was killed by an apple past its use-by date. And that was on my second attempt - the first ended in a hail of arrows just after my much-hyped arrival in Port Blacksand, as it's better known.

I couldn't possibly do any worse this time, could I? With a skill of 11, stamina 21 and luck 12, surely it would be a walk in the park?

So the book begins with your character cutting his finger on his own sword, almost tripping over a black cat and a 50-mile trek across the badlands outside Port Blacksand, all to find some lazy wizard who won't protect his civilian neighbours from the evil Zanbar Bone, and kick some sense into him.

Taking advantage of my high skill, I cut my way past the guard (a haste that will come back to haunt me... spoiler alert!) and enter the city. Last time I went left, so this time, I head right. There's a madman, aptly named since he attacks awesome me with his skill of 5. I pocket his smoky crystal ball, and head on.

My next encounter is with an ogre who bafflingly, once dead (it's an ogre! Don't judge), bequeaths me a single white silk glove. Now, I'm a firm believer that Michael Jackson's white silk glove was the source of his powers, so I stick it on. "Bad" idea... it burns my hand, knocking 2 points off my skill and making it rather painful to grab my crotch and hit the high notes. Not that it's an option in the text. (And is it just me, or is the ogre's arm melting in the supplied artwork? Was he wearing the glove on his elbow?)

I'm then mugged by a bunch of fucking dwarves for all my gold. This is not going well. I don't even bother to stop in at the next shop - what use are flowers in this hellhole? Wait, is Nicodemus a woman?

Without any cash there's nothing for me at the city markets, so heading north I'm soon at the bridge where Nicodemus lives. I pay the bridge beggar my ghost money (just like last time, I got this far completely skint, despite being the land's most famed dragonslayer - I'm guessing people are just downloading their anti-dragon software these days) and pop down to the wizard's hut, get the instructions for defeating Zanbar Bone and move on.

First place I come across, down Candle St, is a guy offering 20 gold to anyone risking a 1 in 6 chance of death - how convenient, considering dice have 6 sides! I take up his offer, since I could do with the cash - unicorn tattoos don't sound cheap.

Between now and the north city wall, I win a game of baseball, fight some plants and buy some candles, before being accosted by some guards. It's not apparent just what I've done wrong - killing that guard, killing an ogre, gambling, stealing a flower... yeah, let's say it was stealing that flower.

I avoid them by climbing up a tree, but unlike everything single other thing in the FF universe, it seems jumping out of trees isn't guided by skill or luck. It's just... fatal.

Would have been better off attacking that entire pirate crew like last time.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Round 2: Starship Traveller

I made so many Star Trek jokes in my original Starship Traveller playthrough, I'm not sure how I'm going to make fun of it this time around. Since then (four years ago!) I've watched Battlestar Galactica, but unless there's a subplot in Starship Traveller where your science officer is seduced by a robot, elected president and starts a cult, I'm not sure that's going to work...

Recapping the plot - you're the captain of a ship, the titular Starship Traveller, and you're so inept at your job you let it smack into a black hole. You, and everyone else on board, awakes in a parallel universe, and the only option is to explore.

It's not made clear why you couldn't just turn around and go back into the hole you came out of, but hey, the book was written in 1983 and they hadn't even discovered the Higgs boson yet, so let's cut Steve Jackson a break.

(Could you imagine Steve Jackson and other FF writer Steve Jackson in 2012, fighting over who had the rights to the name @stevejackson on Twitter? Turns out they were both beaten to it by a pharmaceutical spambot that tweeted a single link.)

Last time it seemed I chose to go to wacky "what if?" type of alternate Earth history planets - and failed to find my way home, as always - so this time, first stop is a "barren" planet. Our engineering officer says we're almost out of dilibrium, which is essential for our ship to run. It's common in our universe, but in this one, it seems to be unobtanium.

We detour to an asteroid field, and send out one of the officers with a jetpack to investigate. In this case, security, since his skill is 7 - considerably lower than either of his guards - so no big loss if he dies. He dies. His replacement has a skill of 5. His crew are literally more than twice as skilled as he is! Why doesn't one of them take over? What kind of captain am I with a chain of command that favours an officer's retarded nephew over his skilled underlings?

Still, we need that dilibrium, so let's try... the medical officer. He dies the same way as the security officer - hit by an asteroid, his suit rips open and his body "vaporizes instantly", which is totally unscientific but again, 1983. They still thought AIDS was caused by the gay.

Shit. Um, how about my engineering officer, with a skill of 12? This dilibrium better be good stuff. He not only succeeds, but somehow on getting back on board, hands it to the engineering officer. I have two? If they look at each other, will it break the space-time continuum? What kind of ship am I running here? What if he's made of anti-matter? Does he have a goatee?

Anyway, half my original crew dead, it's time to get on with visiting my very first planet. (If only the text had told me they were wearing red shirts...)

The barren planet isn't so barren - a ship attacks as I approach it, I blast it out of the sky and head down to the surface. There we find dilibrium. FFS.

Onto the next system - a double star. But of course, before we get there, some more shit goes down - one of my security guards is going berserk after drinking 'water' on the planet of dilibrium. Since my medical officer is apparently nowhere to be seen, it's up to me to make a call. I say, 'Hey, eat some of this random powder we found on the ground on that shitty planet we just left,' and he does, and he dies, 'cause that's what happens you follow my orders.

At the double star, I beam down alone (if anyone's going to die this time, it's me) onto a planet populated by brown-skinned aliens whose voices have a musical quality. Planet of R&B slow jams, then. I ask if they can help us get home, and am told sure, but I can't enter the astronomy department with my phaser. Considering how many of my own people I've killed through my own incompetence, it's perhaps for the best that I hand it over... I'm then smacked on the back of the head, and awake strapped to a metal chair.

Turns out (deep breath...) the binary star system is tearing their planet apart, and they need our ship. So their convoluted plan is to make a replica of me which will broadcast a message back to our crew telling them to bring it down so they can take it. As opposed to just use their planet's military to take it. Or force me to give the order to come down - come on, it wouldn't be the dumbest thing I've done since landing us in this universe.

Somehow I foil this plan by thinking really, really hard, which affects the replica's thought patterns, because now I have ESP. He sends a coded message to the crew warning them to stay away - I'm guessing it was, 'Hey, come down, everything's FINE... when have I ever done you wrong?'

Next planet is blue-green, I beam down with the few original officers I have left, since the rest are prematurely promoted hacks... my science officer, engineering officer and a guard. We meet a race of hicks who know nothing of astronomy, so we leave, 'cause there's no way there could possibly be anyone else on this planet who knows anything about astronomy.

The next planet, we send down a recon party who find a crashed ship with no pilot, sending out a mayday call. The book, no shit, actually says "there being nothing else to see on the planet..." At all? If aliens landed in the middle of Huntly they'd probably assume there was nothing else to see on Earth and leave too.

(Quick aside for the New Zealand readers out there - I heard they finally took down the old Deka sign. Is it true?)

Soon after they get back, it's reported three of the engineers in the recon party have mysteriously died. Being the awesome captain I am, I jettison the ship as a precaution, and it crashes on the surface of the planet, killing the rest. The virus however is already on board - two more engineers die. (I have so many engineers, it's wonder we had a problem with the engines in the first place. Maybe we didn't? Perhaps they just have a really strong union.) My science officer suggests just sealing off the affected sections, which is you know, sensible, and after ejecting the air from those sections, condemning the staff still in there to death, it works.

By this point, I'm feeling more like Zapp Brannigan than Jean-Luc Picard or Lee Adama.

Next up we encounter a ship captained by Commander M'k Mal of the Imperial Ganzig Confederation. Sounds friendly enough... but he wants to arrest us, and his name (not to mention the 'Imperial' part of his confederation's name) sounds vaguely evil, so we blow him out of the sky. If there's one thing I'm good at tonight, it's killing. Indiscriminately.

The next planet we find is volcanic and unlikely to hold life, which means I'm unlikely to kill anything, so we beam down... and all almost fall into a volcano.

Next planet my science officer, engineering officer and I are trapped and scheduled to enter some kind of contest... we don't find out what because killing is what we do, and we kill all the guards and escape, without even a scratch.

Then my crew mutinies and forces me to fly into the nearest black hole, and we all die. Hey, at least that one wasn't my fault.

Didn't get a single co-ordinate, angle, speed reading, nothing. Worst. Attempt at Starship Traveller. Ever.

And that's saying something.