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Messages - Dark Jimbo

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Leviathan is great in so many ways - just a bit short. Tyranny was a character in search of a story, and never really found it

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 18 May, 2022, 02:51:30 PM »
Right? If a Skill 12 dragon doesn't warrant his intervention, what on earth is the point?

Still tempted to take another run or two at it - I'm aware it's very much a gamebook of two halves, and I've never yet made it to the second!

Possibly. AIs already exist that can do superb correction and repair work on old photography, and so a similar application for comics would be feasible...

It's a slippery slope, I tells ya...

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 18 May, 2022, 11:16:01 AM »
Caverns of the Snow Witch

Well, this book is WILD! I knew it had a reputation as a difficult one, and I would need a decent Skill to get me through – and I roll up 11. Nice! That’ll do it. Stamina 14 is not so nice. Luck 7 is truly abysmal. Truly, what the FF Gods give with one hand they take away with the other. As usual, SPOILERS follow…

The Playthrough

So this time I’m a troubleshooter and sword-for-hire escorting a caravan through the frozen far north of Allansia. It doesn’t sound much, but this is a veritable bonanza of character development compared to the likes of the protagonist from say, Forest of Doom, who aimlessly wander Titan composing erotic poetry about their own sword. Very soon, I get given a mini-mission all my own – track and kill the yeti who slaughtered an outpost garrison. My character demands a purse of 50 gold if he’s successful – I like that he knows his worth! Suddenly it clicks – this is the same guy who just survived Scorpion Swamp, of course, trading on his new celebrity. Well, fair play; it took me enough attempts to get a win on that one!

A brace of SNOW WOLVES are the first enemy to test me, hurling themselves out of the snows in a flurry of teeth and claws just after I’ve used some Luck rolls to cross an ice bridge. The last enemy I killed in Scorpion Swamp was a wolf, so it seems fitting that it’s the first I encounter here. They only get a couple of hits in, but this means I’m only on 10 Stamina, so I munch some provisions to take me back up to 14. A blizzard descends on me not long after. Opting to take shelter in an igloo, I’m told I have to eat another two lots of provisions to keep warm (with no health gain!) A pattern is already emerging that I’m none too keen on…

Soon after I find a trapper’s hut and help myself to a Warhammer and a spear. Which is just as well, because the trapper himself is a little further up the slopes, and he’s found… the YETI. I’m too late to stop him being cut down (which will surprise nobody who’s ever read a gamebook), so I hurl the spear and get stuck in. I’ve fought mightier foes, but the dice rolls don’t entirely go my way, and I’m forced to use Luck to stave off death in the final few rounds; I’m barely on my feet by the time the mighty beast rolls over into the snow – a mere 1 Stamina, in fact! Boy, do I feel that I’ve earned every one of those 50 gold pieces…

The mauled trapper is breathing his last – I know exactly how he feels – but in best narrative tradition he has just enough strength to monologue about the nearby Caverns, home to a Snow Witch marshalling an army and apparently planning to bring a new Ice Age down on Allansia. During his dying exposition, I wolf down another few provisions to take my stamina up to a still-measly 9, meaning I’ve already used half my rations up – and I haven’t even gotten to the Caverns! One avalanche later, I do – but I’ve had to take another Luck roll to survive it unscathed. So here I am about to start the adventure proper, and I’m down to 5 rations, 6 Luck and 9 Stamina. Even for an Ian Livingstone book, this seems… excessive.

The first encounter I have within the Caverns is a Wood Elf, who asks why I’m not wearing my ‘obedience collar,’ pointing to the collar around his own neck. One of the options I’m given is to say that I’m having my collar widened because I’ve put on weight recently. This makes me laugh so much that I have to choose it as my option, just to see what the reaction is! Astoundingly, he believes me – but our conversation leads him to curse his own collar and the Snow Witch herself. I’m forced to watch helplessly as the collar cripples him with pain, for which I lose another Luck point [I’m not sure why – it isn’t as though this was my fault. Perhaps because the Snow Witch now knows I’m coming…?]

And so of course, in the next corridor I start falling into a pit in the floor. I can hardly even see the point of rolling to see if I’m Lucky or Unlucky at this point, but I duly do so, and – oh what a surprise, I failed it, and now I have to lose another Luck point for my efforts. I’ve never played a gamebook where I burnt through my Luck so damn quickly. This could easily be the end of the adventure – waiting around in the pit indefinitely for the Snow Witch’s minions to come and finish me off. Instead, two GOBLINS are sent to fetch me, gloating from the pit edge and demanding I throw my sword to them before they let me up. (I can’t lie; it is a tad insulting that a pair of bloody gobbos are apparently all that the force the Snow Witch thinks I merit – but then I am half-dead on my feet, covered in blood and gore – some mine, some not – gobbling sandwiches hand over fist just to stay alive. Perhaps you can’t blame her.) I reluctantly throw them my sword, and they let down a rope. I am apparently so underwhelming a foe, so supremely lacking in menace, that they don’t even bother to tie my hands or anything on the march through the caverns – so I take the opportunity to kick one in the unmentionables, and fight the other. [Here’s a rare error in the gamebook. As the goblins now have my sword, the book tells me I have to fight with a -3 handicap for being weaponless – but I’m not, because I’ve still got the trapper’s Warhammer].

I end up in a vast cavern full of hooded henchmen praying to some almighty, hellish ice sculpture. I attempt to tiptoe past them all and out of a side door – with one Luck point left and two die to roll, you can imagine how well that goes. The alarm is raised, and the statue begins to creak to life – I knew I was going to end up fighting that bloody thing the moment I saw it… I go into the fight against the ICE DEMON on 12 stamina, and come out on 4. Yup, that’s about par for the course for this day. Come back Scorpion Swamp, all is forgiven.

Quite a lot now happens in short succession, [building, I think, to the end of the original magazine version  of the story which the gamebook was later extended from]. I rescue a dwarf, who gives me a sling and an ominous warning to ‘beware the white rat.’ An Illusionist tries to bamboozle me with the old ‘Which is the real me’ mirage, but I make a lucky stab at exactly the right one. Smashing the crystal that was obviously the source of his power, I’m rather baffled to find that a Genie, of all things, emerges from it. He seems weirdly out of place here in the ice caves, but sod it – he offers to come to my aid and get me past one enemy when I most need it. There’s a FROST GIANT in the next room. Thankfully I avoid fisticuffs, as the dwarf’s sling places a lead ball straight between his eyes and takes him out bloodlessly. For my troubles I pick up a magic ring that will summon a warrior to fight in my stead! In the next room I have to fight a CRYSTAL WARRIOR, [at which point the gamebook remembers that I have the Warhammer]. It’s been a rough start, and I’m still not in a good way, but the Snow Queen’s minions are now falling like ninepins before me. Maybe I do have the ghost of a chance here…

In the room beyond that is a creepy stone sarcophogaus, and perched upon it, the white rat I was told to beware of – although what help the warning was supposed to be, I don’t know. I’m not even given an opportunity to avoid it. The rat immediately runs over, and transforms before my bewildered eyes into… a WHITE DRAGON. A freakin’ dragon. I have no time to think about how little sense this makes before I’m in the fight of my life. I use the magic ring to summon a Dwarf warrior, but as he’s only Skill 7 (against the dragon’s 12) he does exactly no damage before the lizard’s blasted him to a greasy spot on the floor. Then it’s my turn. I last a little longer, but not long enough.

Lights out. Where was my bloody genie when I needed him?!

The Verdict
After all of Scorpion Swamp’s laudable attempts to innovate, we’re firmly back in familiar territory here. Even more so, in fact – once the titular caverns are reached early on, CotSW is essentially another of Sir Ian’s beloved dungeon crawls, complete with plenty of uninteresting ‘will you go left-or-right’ paragraphs. That said, it’s packed full of incident and rarely fails to be exciting, and the unique setting (as with Island of the Lizard King) really makes this one sing. It feels like a more successful redux of Firetop Mountain, in many ways.

It has two main faults. The first doesn’t especially matter – it’s that there’s a little too much that doesn’t really make sense (the misplaced genie, the dragon that for some reason turns into a rat, the sorceress who is also a vampire…). The other does, and given that this is a Sir Ian book, it’ll be of no surprise to learn that it’s just too bloody hard! It’s a fairly relentless barrage of Luck rolls and Skill +10 enemies. Shame, because this one could have been a contender.

A unique setting, an unusual structure and superbly individual artwork lifting another often unfair dungeon crawl – 8 combat dice out of 10.

Off Topic / Re: The Black Dog Thread
« on: 18 May, 2022, 10:33:47 AM »
In the meantime though could you please keep checking in here?  Just so we can support you through this.  Remember, we're crap at advice, don't have the first clue about how to manage mental health problems (mis-management ... now that we're experts at!) are about as medically qualified as barber surgeons and are prone to off-the-wall jokes that are about as amusing as watching Nadine Dorries gazing longingly at Johnson (okay, that is funny in a rather disturbing kind of way).

What we can do though is be here for you.  Lend an ear.  Help you sift through thoughts if you want.  Talk complete and utter crap.  Argue the minutae of Dredd until your brain oozes  out of your ears.  Whatever ...

Take care, pal.

Very much this. I don't have any solutions to offer for anything, but please feel that you always have a place here to vent, or complain, or just dump a load of feelings. I may not comment much, but I do read, and I do sympathise, for whatever little that is worth.

Lobster Random was never quite as good as it wanted to be, but then neither was The Dead, which I find a curiously depressing and dull experience to read (while loving the big concepts it plays with, and how originally it does that). At least LR was quite funny - it's certainly the one I'd most prefer to re-read.

Aquila largely leaves me cold. It's a problem when your protagonist is a moody, unlikeable lunk.Necronauts for me - unique, memorable, didn't outstay its welcome

Announcements / Re: 2000 AD - The Ultimate Collection
« on: 14 May, 2022, 10:09:50 PM »
My copies arrived today. Deadworld includes everything except the most recent FoD and Visions stories, Jessica and Transpolar.

Anyone know if either of those in the 3rd Deadworld HC?
I'm hoping I'll be able to continue with book 4 without missing too much.

The 3 hardcovers contain everything published in the prog so far.

Announcements / Re: 2000 AD - The Ultimate Collection
« on: 14 May, 2022, 01:43:14 PM »
Think that's Wren from Brass Sun.

Classifieds / Re: Shimura splash page - Colin MacNeil for sale!
« on: 11 May, 2022, 12:00:41 PM »
Bumping because, frankly, I need the cash!
(also, can everybody see the image? I can't on my laptop for some reason.)


I'm going with Lenny Zero. Max, for me, is a good supporting character but not one to carry a full tale: I've already forgotten his last story apart from the art whilst with Lenny, for all the smugness and unpleasantness the stories are a good dose of seedy MC1 and I do enjoy a clever twist.

Yep, you've said it in a nutshell. Lenny Zero.

Droid Life was always a tough one to compare to more standard length action/adventure stuff. So it's nice at least that it bows out against a proper finals contender.

Yep. It did well to hold out as long as it did; no shame in going out now.

Anderson has been massively inconsistent over the years, but she's still a contender.

Prog / Re: Prog 2280 - High-Octane Sci-Fi Action!
« on: 07 May, 2022, 05:04:32 PM »
Also I'm not convinced that children really want to spend their free time reading comics about school.

Harry Potter?

Shakara. Shakara Shakara Shakara. Shakara? Shakara!

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 04 May, 2022, 11:31:30 AM »
I hardly remember this book at all now, so reading it again should be interesting. I might still give book 9 a try first.

Don't worry, you've not fallen behind. CotSW next for me, too.

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