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Author Topic: Gamebooks  (Read 18089 times)

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #360 on: 06 July, 2022, 01:26:22 PM »
That'll be where I read it then!
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #361 on: 08 July, 2022, 04:24:20 PM »
The Progs own Tazio Bettin is doing the art for Secrets of Salamonis, one of the two 40th anniversary releases later this year. There's a handful of images here, and they look pretty great: https://taziobettin.artstation.com/projects/9NLEaQ
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Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #362 on: 08 July, 2022, 04:35:42 PM »
The Progs own Tazio Bettin is doing the art for Secrets of Salamonis, one of the two 40th anniversary releases later this year. There's a handful of images here, and they look pretty great: https://taziobettin.artstation.com/projects/9NLEaQ

Wow - those are awesome potatoes.

Some of the reprint material (like the new WotT prints) are let down by art that's just not as good as the originals. Perhaps this is due to these being niche passion projects.
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Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #363 on: 08 July, 2022, 04:47:55 PM »
WOW! That's more like it...!
@jamesfeistdraws

Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #364 on: 08 July, 2022, 09:46:58 PM »
That just looks so impressive! It would be worth buying that book for the art alone! Good find!

I'm really looking forward to this book. Steve Jackson's Sorcery! books, and also Creature of Havoc, feel more like fully-fleshed novels than the more usual FF books with their short paragraphs that have little in the way of a narrative strand. So this should be a good read.

Speaking of gamebooks that feel a bit like novels, I have finally finished my first Way of the Tiger book, and then read all the bits that I missed during my playthroughs. I've mentioned before that the paragraphs are longer and more detailed, but the endgame is magnificent and really adds to the feeling that there is a story, or at least a theme, in the way that for example Forest of Doom does not.

Assassin! playthroughs 11 to 13

Instead of resuming from my last checkpoint, I decided to start again at the beginning, because I had got to near the end of the book with quite a low Endurance score, and I wanted to try and get there a bit healthier!

I began to regret that decision when those bloody pirates at the start of the book defeated me three bloody times! Killed me twice, and once -- just for variety -- they captured me and made me a galley slave for the rest of my life!

Playthroughs 14 to 18

I finally get past the pirates and make it (via the same route) to where I left off the other day, on the roof of the Keep where the baddies live. I use this as a checkpoint to go back to when I'm killed, which turns out to be quite often.

First the guard on the roof raises the alarm twice, and I get killed by reinforcements. On the third go, I manage to silently kill the guard, and now I have to choose which order to kill my three victims in. Perhaps foolishly, I choose to begin with the man who in my character's backstory murdered my natural father and, later, my foster father. This turns out to be a mistake, because I was supposed to save him till last, and I quickly arrive at an instant death paragraph.

I go for one of the alternatives, a sorceror who immediately kills me with a death spell for which I have no magical defence (having missed the opportunity to acquire that in Mortvalon, as I have since discovered).

I then go for the third target, heroically killing him in his sleep. Yes, the bards will certainly be singing songs about my courage and honour for generations to come! I then get killed by one of the other bosses.

Playthrough 19 (!)

Finally, I manage to assassinate two of the Big Bads, before finally having a big showdown with my nemesis, and what an absolutely epic scene this is! This is a really fitting end for the book, consisting of an absolutely barn-storming, gigantic battle with another ninja. It consists of a great many paragraphs, giving you various different options for attacking, while describing a huge climactic fight. It reminds me of the big duel with Balthus Dire, but the way this is done just feels more deadly, more significant, and more exciting. It's just really well put together.

My enemy's Endurance score is still higher than mine, but not unfairly so, and -- for a change! -- I happen to make all the right choices, greatly aided with my new combat knowledge which I learned from the friendly hermit in the mountains, which gives me an impressive head start as I manage to deprive him of 16 of his 20 Endurance points in the first round! Which makes the fight sound a bit easier than I have tried to convey in the previous paragraph, but only because I actually found the hermit, who I could easily have missed. It's not essential to find him, but it definitely helps, and this is why this book is immeasurably fairer than so many of Sir Ian's.

Once I finally dispatch this guy (without actually needing the extra Endurance points I worked so hard for in playthroughs 11 to 13!), the final paragraph (420) is the very opposite of the criminally brief Space Assassin's 400. It is a suitably rewarding description of your triumph and your reward, and I also get to pick up a new ninja skill which I can take with me on to the next book!

Now I have to escape from the Keep...

Conclusion

It's just great, and you should all buy it! My second WotT book has arrived, so I'll start that soon!

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #365 on: 11 July, 2022, 02:18:06 PM »
Great playthrough Richard, I'm stoked you enjoyed it so much. That showdown at the end with Yaemon is the absolute BEST. What an ending!
You really need to think ninja in this one, so killing off Honoric whilst he sleeps is totally on point and I love the way it enables you to then quickly dispatch the second enemy leader.
Definitely go through the arena if you do it again, it's great fun (especially if you have poison needles).
I love this book so much!
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #366 on: 11 July, 2022, 03:50:55 PM »
Freeway Warrior: Highway Holocaust

I'm pretty sure I played one of these back in the day but not sure which one. A few years back these were reprinted in snazzy hardback editions and I snapped up the first three second hand on a gaming buy and sell group, but never got around to them. After the disappointment of Freeway Fighter I thought now would be a good time to give it a crack.

If you've played and of the Lone Wolf books, you'll know what this is about, but if not it's MUCH more complex than FF or even WotT. There's a fairly in-depth inventory system, and combat is determined by matching the combat skill of two combatants, then rolling a random number and cross-referencing a chart. There are also five skills, each starting at three, with 5 additional points to be spread between them at will. Combat Skill, Endurance (Stamina) are randomly determined, as is the number of medkits you begin with. You can carry up to ten items, but too many reduces your stealth skill (should really be called mobility, as it's used to dodge attacks asn such) meaning every time you find a new item you have to think hard about if you want to actually collect it. On top of all that you need to keep track of bullets and will need food and water at regular intervals to avoid losing health through starvation or thirst.

This is actually my third playthrough. Having determined stealth is possibly the most important skill I've gone with stealth 5. My starting objects are 2 meals, a flexible saw and a CB radio. I'm well-stocked with medkits and have high combat skill but slightly low endurance. I choose the pistol as my starting weapon.

The book starts with an extensive background, detailing how the apocalypse began and played out, and where you (the reader) begin. Instead of playing YOU as per FF I'm a named character: the ludicrously tough sounding Cal Phoenix, the 'Freeway Warrior' - so known for my skills in driving and shooting, although I'm part of a small group of friendly survivors based in McKinney, where we have fuel but not much else. The plot is a fairly familiar one with me / Phoenix needing to escort a convoy of civilians to a safer area - in this case from our small settlement of McKinney, which is too small and weak to survive the coming months, to another friendly settlement (Big Spring) in Tucson and then onto California together. We're moving as a convoy: a tanker of oil driven by Uncle Jonas, the settlement leader; a bus of people, driven by Cutter Jacks, the mechanic, and me in my battle car. It's all very Mad Max 2 but there's no issue with that as it's all quite clearly defined.

As we set off another survivor named Long Jake splits off to pick up some weapons he thinks may be cached nearby. He soon radios in to say he has found a survivor and I shoot off to help, but when I arrive, he is pinned down by bad guys and I walk straight into an ambush. I fight my way clear, but Jake isn't so lucky as he is fully Mungo-d almost immediately. I escape without the cache of weaponry but I do rescue with the survivor, a young woman named Kate, who fills me in on some more plot - she's escaped from a vicious bike gang (The Lions) run by a guy called Mad Dog Michigan, who has a plan to pillage the armory at Fort Hood and so expand his reach across the Eastern Seaboard and from there, the rest of the US. Turns out one of the guys I killed was Michigan's brother, so I've killed his bro and got his girl, which is unlikely to make me popular.

Up next is the town of Denton: I scout ahead but fluff my scouting check and am ambushed by three bikes & sidecars. I make a quick escape, but with danger in the town we need to detour around Denton, taking us dangerously close to Dallas. Out next stop is Lake Lewisville, which has dried up, making it easy to cross, but risky as the ground is very open and the larger vehicles are forced to move at slow speed to avoid shredding their tyres. Driving ahead I spot someone watching us from above: I have the opportunity to shoot at him, but the book tells me he is pretty far out, so I go after him on foot, sneaking up through the broken terrain and engaging in a vicious knife fight. He's tougher than me, but I'm a better fighter: I'm wounded but kill him. Turns out I was right to do so as he's a member of the Arlington Vipers, a known road gang, and could only have had ill-intent on his mind. Looting his body gives me an absolute wealth of stuff: I steal his water, bullets and telescope, and use his painkillers to heal my wounds. I also decide to take his telescope, leaving the rest of his stuff as I'm concerned about weight limits.
We cross the lake, moving onto State Highway 407 and from there, Interstate 35. Pasisng North Texas state University I decide to head in and explore, with Uncle Jonas suggesting I scavenge some polythene sheeting for crossing the desert. The place is a burnt out wreck but exploring deeper I do discover a huge stockpile of salt. I can't figure out the number puzzle to get into the door so I return with the salt and some polythene to the cheers of the convoy. I honestly hadn't thought salt would be so important but there you go!

We leave Interstate 35 to go around Fort Worth and our next challenge is to cross the Trinity River. Here I have two choices. I decide to head Northwest to the settlement at Lakeside, only to find the bridge has collapsed, although I do find an abandoned bus where I'm given a bewildering array of car parts to scavenge - all sound useful but all take up room in my backpack (I can't just leave them in my car for some reason, or hand them over to Cutter on the bus) so in a state of indecision and not wanting to impact my stealth I leave the lot. Instead we take the convoy to Lake Worth only to find the bridge there blocked by a manned barricade. Cutter suggests rigging a length of crash barrier to the front of the bus and ramming through, with the tanker following and my car bringing up the rear. We burst through and I sustain only minor wounds although the bus is beat up and needing repairs. Whilst that's going on I head over to nearby Carswell Airforce base where I'm able to snag a fresh clip of bullets.
We head West to Weatherford, where I must consume my first meal - looks like I'm strictly on one meal a day. We're camping when we pick up a radio broadcast from nearby Mineral wells. Obviously I go to investigate, arranging to meet others at Santo. When I arrive the radio station is in ruins and the famous DJ Dr Drool long is long dead, but the trip isn't a bust as I'm able to steal dressings and antispetics for medikit supplies.
Rendezvousing back at the bus, there's another ambush, and another vicious fight. This time the attackers make it onboard the bus - probably because I didn't think to shoot any - but I'm able to dispatch the enemies in hand to hand. We break out of the attack but the bus is heavily damaged and we need to make a pit stop. We stop at Thunder, but the prognosis isn't good and the bus may be toast. The prospect of having to leave people here is dreadful, and we bed down uneasily for the night.

Keeping watch, I spot a strange flickering light up in the hills and head off to investigate. However I didn't bring a torch, so I plunge into a gulley whilst blundering around in the dark and take 6 wounds, smash up my radio and my saw. Clambering out I eventually find the source of the light: a crazed old hermit type named Mountain Goat who lit the fire to attract our attention. Declining his cooked rat, I explain our woes and the upshot is that I agree to take him with us as he knows where to find bus part at the nearby town of Strawn, which is held by a guy named Alcatraz and his gang, the Skulls. Predictably the rest of my convoy aren;t delighted to have a flea-ridden, rat eating lunatic aboard our bus, but I make the rules here!
Cutter and I are chosen to go raid Strawn. After a day of surveillance (by now I've eaten all my food and drunk half my canteen) we identify two routes of entry and split up. With two ways in, I decide to go via an amusement park to increase my chances of fighting a clown-themed enemy but all I do is brain myself painfully whilst avoiding a patrol for huge endurance loss. I link up with Cutter, whi tracks down the part we need and whilst he is stripping the part from another vehincle battle a drunken ganger: he's a poor combatant but some terrible rolls leave me badly cut up. We hide the body in the trunk of the vehicle we just stripped and leg it.
Back at the convoy we head towards Eastland, where we find someone has dug a trench across the road. Using my telescope, I spy men with dogs on the other side. The dogs look rabid, and the men look sick: before I can get back to my car the dogs are on me. I shoot one, then am given a choice of how many bullets to use against the rest of the pack: I'm flush with bullets right now and the book tells me one bite means death, so I unload a full clip into the rest of the pack, scattering them. The men are in an advanced state of radiation poisoning so I of course donate some of my precious medkits despite the fact that they set these dogs on me because Cal Phoenix is a kind guy like that.

Whilst I was killing dogs the convoy has spotted, with horror, Mad Dog Michigan and his Lions are following us. I dissaude them from going to Cisco (where the irradiated guys hailed from). Again, we have a couple of choices of route - I decide to go via Albany, rather than cross-plains. The temperature is now over 110 and people are starting to come down with heat exhaustion. I am low on water myself and needing to eat my salt to keep my levels up. I pop into Albany, looking to find shelter and water for the convoy, but it's another ambush - there are hordes of enemies here. I escape but use up the rest of water lying low.
We reach Abilene but are waylaid by a sandstorm: a little girl goes missing and Kate, Cutter and I head out to find her.  I'm hapless but luckily Kate isn't and she's soon reunited with her parents. finds her. Eventually the storm blows itself out, but the heat is insane and the rest of our rations have spoiled. Things look bad!

As we continue on, I'm winged by a sniper and am now out of water: my endurance is getting low and I'm getting worried. As we pass Trent, a couple of members of Michigan's Detroit Lions (now I get the name!) come racing out of nowhere and one chucks a live grenade onto the passenger seat: I chuck it out and blow up the biker, but his mate is harder to shift. Bullets whip through the car, wounding me: I accelerate away from the convoy with him in pursuit, then as he begins priming a second grenade I break sharply, sending him over the hood to a crunchy, and then explosive end. We think this pair were outriders scouting ahead, but the Lions cannot be far away.

At Sweetwater the bus needs to stop for more repairs and to avoid overheating. Nearby, happily, is a lake: Kate and I go to top up our supplies, but Kate falls in, I then fall in, and as we struggle out covered in mud and filth our eyes meet - "That's the second time you've saved my life" she says (the lake was a couple of feet deep)... just as it looks like Cal is getting a snog gunfire erupts from the ridge above. There's two assailants: one is making a move for my car, which would be fatal, whilst the other pins us down.  I've forgotten to use any med-kits so in my battered state I miss a shot to bring down a guy going for my car and end up having to rush him whilst Kate covers me. Knives out - I roll high and kill him with a single stroke. The other guy escapes, but the one I killed has enough food, medical supplies, and water to top me up. In addition, he has a load of plastic explosive on his bike, which Kate swipes. We're now just 66 miles away now from Big Spring but we know the Lions are close.
The bridge is down over Colorado river. I scout North, finding a dam, but the bridge there is too small to allow the bus and tanker to cross. Back at my car I run into a rattlesnake - I get the usual choices of knife or shoot it but as someone who has kept snakes I just slowly back off as this would be the correct action here and I'm pleased to say the author has a similar view as the snake, terrified of me as I am of it, also backs off. When I get back to the convoy they've just gone ahead built a bridge anyway, but crucially, Kate has stuck all the C4 to it so we can blow it behind and strand the Lions on the other side. Probably not a good time to mention the smaller bridge I found to the North then...
There follows a short encounter with a gyrocopter pilot, just to keep the MM2 reference strong. This guy is called Rickenbacker: he hails from Big Spring and warns us the Lions are close behind and that another gang, The Mavericks, control the town of Lubbock between here and Big Spring. He then flies off and we soon find out why: the Lions approach in a huge dust-cloud, 100 strong and ready to kill. The bus is across, but the tanker is struggling on the makeshift bridge. Kate and I head back to hold them off: once again  my pistol is rubbish but Kate snipes the lead bikers whilst I am dodging bullets, enabling us to high-tail it over the bridge and detonate it behind us leaving the Lions on the other side, helpless with rage.
Moving on, a good perception roll means we avoid the hazards in Westbrook but as we close on Big Spring I spot trouble ahead with my telescope - hordes of gangers ahead, looting and generally acting mean. There's no way around, so we resolve to drive straight through at speed, with Kate riding shotgun in my car. I medkit myself up to the max.
We're at the climax as the convoy smashes straight through the unsuspecting bikers. One brave / daft guy faces me down with a sniper rifle, but I run him over. We're through, but the bikes are in pursuit with drivers leaping from moving bikes onto the bus, smashing in through the windows. Kate takes wheel and I jump aboard, quickly cutting down the Maverick attacking Cutter at the wheel, but I'm too clumsy a shot to stop another guy hurling a lit Molotov aboard. I'm not burned too badly, but I didn't pick up a fire extinguisher when I had the chance, and I'm reduced to putting the fire out with a blanket, badly burning myself. It matters not, Big Spring is ahead! But as we speed for it's gates a shocking sight: my car, pulled over, with Kate struggling with a pai of attackers. I leap off and gun down the first, but the other has his knife to Kate's throat: I toss my gun, helpless as the ganger hauls her onto his bike and speeds off. And that's... THE END? CLIFFHANGER!


This was everything Freeway Fighter was not: exciting and immersive. Like WotT it has much longer descriptive paragraphs and generally more thoughtful decisions. However some of the mechanics were a bit too in-depth, to the point where it was more like an RPG. The combat system was good, but also a bit annoying: I liked the idea of a single dice roll (I stopped using the random number table at the back in favour of a D10 dice roller online) instead of two but cross-referencing a table felt very 1980s. Parts of the inventory management was also a bit much - there was a fiddly bit about keeping track of bullets that I abandoned altogether. The rest of the inventory stuff was great however. Once I'd established on an earlier playthrough that the stealth stat was essential I was constantly making tricky choices about what to take with me and what not to, in order to avoid overloading myself.

The book seems really replayable - there was never a point where lacking an item saw me auto-killed, only disadvantaged (although see below) so I suspect there is no true path. Even choosing your gun at the start seemed to impact certain choices: my pistol was useful at times and useless at others. Incidentally, I had a couple of encounters where I could scavenge a pistol (and one SMG) but never any of the larger weapons.
There's a fair few auto-kill paragraphs in here, and I believe almost all of them are determined solely by random dice roll. That's why this was my third attempt.

The plot was pretty good, but it's obvious this was part 1 of a larger arc: some stuff was touched on but never resolved (most glaringly Michigan and the Lions having a vendetta against me, also stuff like Rickenbacker's cameo) and then a huge cliffhanger. This meant the journey and its hazards took centre stage which was good, but the book didn't feel as satisfying at completion as something like Avenger. Then there's the character of Kate. It's really good to have a decent gamebook companion (Mungo and your ilk, I'm looking at you) who can actually bail you out, not be in constant need of help etc. What I didn't like though was that at the start she's described as being very young ('18, perhaps less') and it may just be me, but I feel there's a sinister overtone to the fact that she was 'claimed' by Mad Dog when her settlement was raised and kept captive. The book could have done without this, I think. That said she's a good character overall and her kidnap at the end certainly left me wanting to see what happens next.

My copy, as mentioned, was a pretty spiffy hardback reprint with nice bookmarks and a cool map at the start: I'm not sure if the illustrations are the originals and if I had to guess (and based on the copyright at the front) I'd say probably not as they have a bit of a modern feel to them. They're alright: some of them are a little cartoony, but never detract. There's a ton of images for stuff I didn't see, and I'm quite keen to give it another go sometime. All in all, ymmv depending on how complex you like your gamebook mechanics, but a big recommendation from me.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #367 on: 11 July, 2022, 04:02:17 PM »
And whilst I'm on this thread here's a trailer for another gamebook that just dropped into my inbox:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoO9q6lXlLw

It's a mech vs Kaiju gamebook. I've not played it but I did back it on KS, purely on the basis that it's illustrated by Neil Googe. I went for the b&w paperback, but the hardback I believe has pinups from the likes of Tazio Bettin, Chris Weston, Alex Ronald, Simon Fraser and Anna Morozova. That's a whole host of 200ad art-relevant talent! I don't think it's available yet, but when it is, I am hoping it'll be a belter.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #368 on: 11 July, 2022, 11:46:36 PM »
I love this book so much!

Thanks for recommending it!

I've already started the second one, but rather than do a run-down of all the play throughs I think I'll just wait until I've finished it and then do a round-up of the key points.

I also want to know what happens to Kate! Let us know!

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #369 on: 13 July, 2022, 03:21:16 PM »
I was going to start Temple of Terror but I've had too much fun playing Freeway Warrior so I'll be going on with that story shortly. But before I rescue Kate, it's finally time for me to play:

Way of the Tiger: OVERLORD!
(Part 1 - because I didn't have time to write it all up!)

Because by this point Avenger's stats and skills could be wildly varied, I have the skills of Arrow Cutting, Climbing, Acrobatics, Poison Needles and Shin-Ren. I have a +3 kick modifier and +1 to punch, throw, and fate. I also have a new stat, Popularity: this starts at 2, and measures how much support I have with the people.

The book begins with a nice little description and introduction to the city and the various powers within it. Turns out Irsmuncast is also known as Irsmuncast nigh Edge, as befits its position as the closest settlement to The Rift - 'the last bastion of men' against the hordes of evil. Well alright then.
The book proper then starts with me post-crowning ceremony, snuggling down into my predecessor's soft bed in a room hung with pictures of 'souls in torment' (my 'beautiful handmaiden' is ordered to turn these to the wall - this whole setup isn't very ninja-y, but the book does say I am uncomfortable with all this). Next morning more beautiful handmaidens help me wash and dress with 'murmured admiration of my toned body' which is how I know (a) I'm definitely playing a gamebook and (b) this used to be the palace of a bad guy, because having tons of handmaidens to do stuff like this is evil ruler 101. In fairness throughout the book the writing drops bits in saying how uncomfortable I am with the various trappings of wealth and sycophancy that comes with it, which seems legit as I wouldn't have had all this on the Island of Tranquil Dreams. 

My breakfast meeting with The Grandmaster of Kwon lays out that I need to pick a privy council: that's four guys, out of eight possible applicants. The applicants are:
 
Force Lady Gwyneth of the Shieldmaidens, a noble badass who helped me overthrow the Usurper
The Demagogue, a rabble-rouser who likewise rallied the people to my cause
Golspiel the merchant, who sort of helped but was dodgy as anything
Solstice, High Priest of the Temple of Time, who did absolutely nothing during the revolution
Parsifal, the aged Grandmaster of Kwon himself
Greystaff, High Priest of Avatar, the God of Good
The Lord High Steward of the Usurper, a follower of Nemesis, the God of Evil
Foxglove, head of the Usurpers secret police and also a follower of Nemesis

This part of the book is totally unlike anything I have previously played. It starts off with a bunch of job interviews for the council. The Steward is up first - he looks like a classic Grand Vizier and basically says appoint him or else. I of course do not. Instead I appoint Gwyneth and The Demagogue, due to their support for me previously, but not Golspiel as he is so unreliable. I also refuse the Grandmaster - going for balance I choose Greystaff and Foxglove (the book tells me a good 30% of the city worships Nemesis, so evil should have a place on my council: furthermore, I feel Foxglove is a spymaster whilst the Steward was a representative of the Usurper, and that she would be better working with me than against me. My subjects don't agree, and my popularity takes a hit)

Following that I'm presented with a number of problems, usually one or two per day, with the individual members of the council giving advice to a resolution. Pretty soon I have the measure of my councilors: Gwyneth talks sense, Greystaff talks bunk, and the Demagogue is hopelessly naive although he is useful as a sounding board for the populace. Foxglove generally offers no advice, but she does meet me in secret to confirm she has been bumping off agitators and to warn me of dangers to my person.
Firstly, I must quell unrest and looting on the streets - I appoint the Shieldmaidens for this, which boosts my popularity due to their fair nature, but also exempts the Temple of Dama from tax. I then have to choose my bodyguard - I go for Onikaba's samurai who are still hanging around from before, which gives me a negative as the people don't like foreigners (gammons!). Third up is what to do with the Usurpers old army, fully 4,000 orcs, half orcs and men. I decide to disband them, which sticks 4k unemployed orcs on the streets and is not a good move, but because I have appointed Gwyneth as the watch commander she is alble to keep order in a fair manner.
Trickily I then need to level some taxes - here disbanding the army is somewhat in my favour. Greystaff is all for taxing the Temple of Nemesis out of existence, whilst the Demagogue has some insane ideas. I go with the middle ground, cover all expenses and generally please nobody.
The next item I need to deal with is the status of the Yellow Lotus, Foxglove's secret police: everyone wants them disbanded with good reason, but Foxglove at this point tells me that Parsifal is in fact dead and has been replaced by Mandrake, the assassin master of disguise I battled back in book 2. Following her advice I attend evensong at the temple of Kwon, then (after using my Shin-Ren skill to check, because Foxglove herself isn't exactly trustworthy) deck the doddery Grandmaster with a surprise flying kick. A quick check (and a sigh of relief) reveals Foxglove was right - he IS Mandrake, who I swiftly dispatch. Another bad guy chalked off!
The final, most serious problem awaits - an army arrives from the Rift and here my over-reliance on Gwyneth has backfired as the people, who now idolise HER as she is both councilor, head of the army and head of the watch, beg her to march out and fight them. I refuse, which again has negative impact on my popularity, but I have enough to survive. We anticlimactically fend off the attack in one paragraph, but mood in the city is glum and everyone fears a bigger attack. It is at this point that Kwon sends me a dream telling me to pop off and recover The Orb and Scepter of Telmain from the Mountain of Undying Solitude, which are some legendary objects to Irsmuncast and should bring us luck. This seems to me to be a terrible time to be leaving the city but off I go, ready for part 2!

This has been hugely enjoyable so far. Also note I have made NO dice-rolls and there has been no fighting (I dropped Mandrake and killed him automatically). The decisions require and reward a bit of thought, and the cast is excellent:Foxglove seems to be a favourite of the author with her crazy costume changes and secret messages but all of my NPCs show a bit of character. And the descriptions are superb. I love the world of Orb. If I had to critique it, it's all reasonably easy so far....
Also worth saying, having just played Highway Holocaust, it dawned on me during this book that unlike other books where you play a named hero, WotT has at no point indicated that Avenger is male. Youthful me always pictured Avenger as so, hence I still do, but this is cool writing.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #370 on: 13 July, 2022, 03:39:43 PM »
That books sounds fascinating! I'm looking forward to getting to that one. I've ordered book three based on how much I enjoyed the first one. I might not read your part two though because spoilers!

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #371 on: 13 July, 2022, 07:06:08 PM »
I really am going to have to give WotT a go, aren't I...?

Return to Kharé
Well, I wasn’t going to type the rest of this up (both for my sanity, and fear of spoiling too much) but my tidy mind is finding hard to move on to new adventures until I do! So, for the sake of my own closure, here’s the rest of my Kharé playthrough…

Upper Kharé 1
So I’m back to more-or-less the point at which I crossed the Jabaji river from Lower into Upper Kharé. This time I avoid a dunking, so my rations are intact, as well as the paintings of the nobles that I got from the armless artist. This time I also give the Red-eyes slum a wide berth, only to run straight into… a Red-Eyes. This chap seems alright, though – he just wants to play swindlestones (although, like Flanker the assassin, the stake he wants me to play with is my life). He seems to be a sort of Fagin-like character, running a gang of orphans around the city streets, and he’s a goldmine of clues and gossip.



Ever-mercurial Fate then takes me back to the imposing Red-eyes prison where I died. There’s only one reason I can think of for my stars to have led me back here – an Elvin fellow who briefly shared my cell with me. Marshalling my array of spells, I’ve soon chased off the guards (albeit temporarily) and opened the cell. Whoever he is, the Elvin’s smart enough not to waste time questioning who I am or what’s happening, and we take flight together through the twisting alleyways outside the prison. The guards are soon after us, and in the confusion I lose the Elvin. Hopefully he wasn’t recaptured. More importantly, neither was I, and I’m not about to hang around here any longer.



I then come to another mansion – not quite the equal of Theeta’s, back in Lower Kharé, but clearly not abandoned. The master of the house is at home, and – it’s Lord Lorag, the scholar, who holds one of the spell-lines for the North Gate! I have a job to do convincing him I’m not the latest in a long line of assassins sent by Sansas, but he does eventually seem to believe me. When I mention that I’m a Sorcerer, he seems to come alive at last. The distrust and suspicion fall away, and we’re soon deep in discussion of spells and star-charts. He’s happy to give me his spell-line in return for all my help with his research – and wonders if he might intrude upon my time a bit further, and beg help with some other spells…? Feeling that our relationship has become, if not friendship, then at least one of mutual respect, I’m happy to indulge him – and it isn’t every day that I get to talk about the intricacies of the craft with a fellow sorceror. Perhaps I’m just naïve, because Lorag obviously views our relationship somewhat differently…

Look, there’s no way to say this that will save my ego. He turns me into a dog. A pet dog. And that, somewhat improbably, is how attempt #2 ends!

Upper Kharé 2

This time I’m still bipedal when I leave Lorag’s mansion – and I now have two of the four spell-lines! If I can’t find First Noble Sansas, the only man who knows all four, then I now need to track down Theeta and Shinva – but last that anyone knew, Seventh Noble Theeta was now a blind beggar, so it’s anyone’s guess where he is! I arrived in the city too late to save Fifth Noble Shinva, who’s already been killed by one of his peers, but by all accounts the dead don’t rest easy in Kharé…

A gaggle of Orclings come to pester with menaces, but a cheeky illusion of treasure spell sorts them out. As they fight one another for imaginary coins, I find a blacksmith working at his forge. I make the mistake of asking him about swords – a mistake because, once I’ve picked up the stunning blade he gives me, I know I don’t ever want to wield another blade in my life. When he tells me the price it’s all I can do not to fall over – thank Slangg I didn’t give the Orclings any of my money! Swindlestones has been pretty good to me, though, and I can (just about) afford it, so I decide to treat myself – but I’d best get throwing those knucklebones again as soon as possible, because my purse is now empty!



As if in answer to my prayers – although, with Slangg for a deity, that seems unlikely – the next town square is dominated by a vast bronze statue. In a bowl at its feet offerings of coin have been left. Do I dare…? Has Kharé demeaned me that much, that I’m willing to risk the ire of this unnamed god, and use holy gifts to replenish my fortune? Well, yes, obviously. I can’t say I’m too surprised when the statue clanks into life and climbs down off its pedestal – I’m very much the bad guy in this scenario. What does surprise me a little, given that I’m gearing up for the fight of my life, is that my shiny new longsword takes the bastard out in a single, sweeping cut! Best buy EVA!

And the shopping spree continues when I find an open-air market nearby. With my ill-gotten loot I buy a few curios, and – most significantly – a bow and quiver of silver arrows. The rumour mill is convinced that silver is the only material that can harm the undead, and with increasing inevitability I can see the Necroplois of Kharé in my future, and the restless shade of Shinva… I’ve still got no idea where Theeta might be found, though, but when I find a vast gambling hall, it seems as likely a place as any. Honest. That’s why I went in. Looking for Theeta. Look, I don’t have a problem, right? I can stop playing swindlestones any time I like – it’s just that I don’t want to. Not right now. [Swindlestones doesn’t make for much of a write-up - suffice to say that I stay here, playing game after game, until I’ve eventually made back the gold I spent on the longsword.]



Leaving Fireview Square and the gambling hall, I head east. The buildings rapidly deteriorate as I walk, until soon there is not even any glass in the window frames. Further still, and there are hardly any buildings still standing. This is an area of Kharé known as the Fallen Quarter, laid low by an earthquake some years ago and never rebuilt. There isn’t an awful lot here. And so it doesn’t actually take me too long to find… [drumroll please…] Theeta, Seventh Noble! The poor sod’s in a bad way. He either can’t remember who he was, or doesn’t want to, but I’ve got his painting, so there’s no mistake. Finally he admits to his identity – just in time for a pair of HARPIES to descend from the sky. Not only is Theeta blinded, homeless and humbled, but he’s been tormented by these beasts for months now, with the harpies snatching away any food that comes his way. [Hmm… Someone’s been watching Jason and the Argonauts!] Well, they aren’t much of a match for my new sword. In his gratitude, Theeta admits to everything – and is more than happy to tell me his spell-line. Except… except that he can’t remember it all! I tell you, it’s all one step forward and two steps backward in this city. He does let me have a cunningly-wrought serpent ring for my troubles, so it was by no means a waste of time.



On my way out of the Fallen Quarter, I neglect to watch my feet as I should, and the ground crumbles away beneath me! For the second time in Kharé, I’m in the sewers. I trudge for an age, with no real idea of where I’m going, when the echoing tramp of many feet begins to fill the tunnels. It seems prudent to make myself scarce, but – there’s nowhere to go! I’m overtaken, and quickly surrounded, by a literal army of goblins. Their leader seems to find my presence here more amusing than anything. I suppose he can afford to, with this many swords at his back. He sends one goblin after another towards me in single combat. The first two I cut down with my sword. Then I start flinging spells around, hoping to impress them enough to leave me alone. I explode a few with POP, and make another fight a goblin of my own creation, but they just keep on coming… Finally – mercifully – the leader gets bored, and signals the army to march on. I follow for a while, eavesdropping, and learn that they’re planning a takeover of the  city above – but not who their real leader is…



I emerge from the sewer to find myself in the Necropolis. It’s immediately clear I’m not welcome – the air is brooding and cold, with a taste like burnt ozone. This is not a place where the living are welcome. I begin to search the tombs and markers. Shinva’s mausoleum isn’t too hard to find, but I don’t immediately head into it – there might be clues or items yet to find among the other headstones. Alas! I spend too long dawdling, and attract the attentions of a DEATH WRAITH – undead guardian of the necropolis. I know that silver weapons harm the undead, and I have two. I quickly suspect that, in the silver chain, I’ve made the wrong choice! I’m able to harm it, but the damage it deals to me is incredible! It’s a pretty short fight, and I’m soon added to the non-living quotient of the graveyard’s population…



Upper Kharé 3
Never one to need a lesson told to me twice, this time I hurry straight inside Shinva’s mausoleum. Naturally, the door slams shut on me as soon as I enter, and won’t budge, so there seems nothing to do but venture further in, and deeper down. Down in the basement, the lid of Shinva’s sarcophagus begins to slide open. I’ve been expecting to have to fight the undead noble since I first heard he was dead, to be frank – but no! What emerges from the tomb is another bloody Death Wraith. This time I box clever (more so than last time, anyway) and whip out my bow and silver arrows, delivering the true coup de grace with a cast of SUN, filling the tomb with blinding sun’s rays. With a hiss, the Death Wraith departs.



Shinva’s shade now makes its presence felt, and he’s a benign old soul, happy to give me his spell-line and then depart in peace to his eternal rest. Not only that, but he tells me a riddle about ‘a Sleepless Ram’ that means nothing to me now, but he’s sure will be of help to me out in the Baklands. And that… seems to be it. With (virtually) all the spell-lines for the North Gate, there doesn’t seem any reason to linger in the cityport of traps. Leaving the Necropolis behind me, I hurry north to the waiting gates, a little delirious to think I might actually soon be free of these walls.

There isn’t much in this heavily-wooded part of the city. A vast, isolated temple looms above the treeline to my right, and something compels me to investigate – I am still missing half a spell line, if nothing else! Climbing up the vast stone steps, I’m soon away from the stink and noise of the city. It’s serenely peaceful up here, and I watch sunset spread across above the Baklands like the contents of a spilled inkpot. Resuming my climb, I’m soon in a shrine-like temple at the top. It’s a shrine to Courga, god of Grace – and thanks to my exploration of Theeta’s mansion, I’m pretty sure I know how to perform his ritual… Ritual performed, Courga manifests in his statue. Not only is he able to give me the missing spell-line, but he offers to replace Slangg as my deity, if I will pursue a path of truth and kindness. Despite a few wobbles here and there, I’ve been trying to do this very thing since I left Analand, so I accept his offer. Slangg departs with a hiss of disinterested malice, and the warm benevolence of Courga fills me.



And so, I’m soon at the infamous North Gate. I speak the spell-lines, and hear locks and tumblers click and groan as ancient mechanisms rumble into life. As the gates begin to open, there’s a sound from a nearby well, and suddenly dozens – maybe hundreds – of goblins are streaming up out of it. Someone has chosen this very moment to make their powerplay. The thing is, though… with the North Gate now open behind me, this no longer has to be my problem, necessarily. It isn’t as though I want an army of rampaging goblins let loose on the unsuspecting city below, but what can I do? A vision of the scholar Lorag suddenly appears to me, and asks if I wish to save Kharé. Trying to forget that, in another life, Lorag turned me into a dog, I tell him that, on balance, I do. Okay, it’s a cesspit, but I met just as many good folk as bad. The people of Kharé are just like any others, trying to get by. Lorag cryptically just asks why don’t save it, then? After all – ‘The power of the North Gate is now fully yours to command.’ So I close my eyes and I… Well, I’m not quite sure what happens, frankly, but when I open them again there’s nothing left but a thousand pairs of smoking goblin-shoes. Did I do that…?



So there you have it. Having turned me into a housebreaker, thief, gambler and cheat, Kharé’s parting gift was one of mass-murder. But Courga doesn’t abandon me, so it’s obviously okay when it only happens to goblins. The North Gate stands open, and the Baklands await.

 

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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #372 on: 13 July, 2022, 08:38:32 PM »
Great write-up! I might have to play Sorcery! again after I finish WotT!

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« Reply #373 on: 14 July, 2022, 11:02:49 AM »
That is a great writeup and a superb sounding adventure. I'm also going to give these a crack asap. The one and done FF books have been a little humbled by all these ongoing series but I'll be back to them...

I love those illustrations too especially the orclings.
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« Reply #374 on: 14 July, 2022, 11:05:16 AM »
WotT: Overlord! Part 2

The Mountains of Undying Solitude are a bleak and blasted place, well named, devoid of all but a few dregs of flora and fauna as I make my way towards them. I decide to use my skill of climbing to scale the crags of the mountains instead of taking a rickety looking rope bridge and this decision seems to pay off as I spot on the other side a huge cyclopean creature: the beast has my scent, sniffing about, so I jump down to attack, weakening it with a shuriken and then dropping it with a couple of kicks (though I am battered by it's huge fist for severe damage), satisfyingly knocking it into the chasm. A quick search of it's cave reveals the remains of a ninja - this one from the villainous Way of the Scorpion - and I swipe a ring emblazoned with their scorpion symbol.

Moving on I reach the delightfully named Crags of Abandoned Hope, where to Avengers (bit not my) surprise, the whirlpool symbol of Nemesis is painted on the rocks. I can feel myself being watched and try to blag through as a Scorpion Ninja using the ring but mess up and am drawn into a difficult fight with an enemy ninja. I then detect and try to infiltrate the Scorpion lair, but my lack of trap detecting skill sets off another fight with a ninja - although this one I'm able to swiftly dispatch with a well-placed throw. The Scorpion Clan have their base concealed in a sort of underground complex - I'm on roughly half health now so move in with extreme caution. expecting trickery and my careful approach is rewarded. I knock off a couple of enemies on the way in, eventually finding my way to the centre of the place where I face the Grandmaster of Shadows himself who rises to face me dripping with contempt.

This means it's time for a cinematic, exciting battle with the Grandmaster This is another one of WotT's trademark multi-level battles, with the opening paragraphs mainly being me countering my opponents' various ploys and moves until I can strike, for the Grand Master is a master of deceit and tricky fighting. I get in a blow early, then fight defensively until 'regular' combat begins. By now down to my last 3 points of endurance, I spend inner force on every blow to defeat him but my victory is not without cost - after delivering some exposition where he tells me I will never find the orb and scepter before telling me exactly where I will find them (go beyond the Fangs of Nadir into the Elemental Sea, past a kraken who kills anyone not wearing a magical amulet, then onto an island guarded by a Devil Beast - literally I would have no idea why he would give me this much detail), as he dies he plays his final gambit and brutally cuts away my eye with a hidden weapon, reducing my combat effectiveness greatly.
Mauled and weakened, I can but stand helplessly as the rest of the Scorpion clan file into the room, but in a show of respect the enemy ninja let me go - although they promise they'll be along to kill me later of course.

Leaving the Crags I go West, because i always do, healing en route. The local fishermen are too terrified to venture into the seas but I hire a boat from a poor fisherman, paying him well over the odds with gold I pinched from the Scorpion Temple, and the fisherman ferries me onto the Isle of Thieves. This is a true den of pirates and villains, with, at it's centre, a temple dedicated the Spider God, Nullaq. It's an amulet of Nullaq I need to pass the Kraken.
Locating the temple I use my climbing skills to scale it's spire and steal in at night, slipping over a number of security traps only to double fail on the skill front - I have neither the skills of trap detecting nor poison immunity, and so a well-hidden poison needle means death in the halls of Nullaq.

Attempt 2
I've come so far, and don't fancy the grandmaster fight again, so I restart on the island and try to enter the temple via a different route. Same result. Death.

Attempt 3
Grr. This time I restart at the Mountains, make better choices sneaking into the Scorpion Clan base, but poor rolls see me get battered by the Grand Master. Death.

Attempt 4
Same choices as above, but this time I defeat the Grandmaster and take the same route to the Isle of Thieves. This time I take the only other choice available to me - literally mugging a priest of Nullaq in an alleyway. I assassinate her with my poison needles but am drawn into combat with her two eunuch bodygaurds: needing a quick end I drop one outright with an inner force powered kick. One on one the other is a poor match, although he wounds me with his blade. The amulet of Nullaq is now in my possession but taking ownership of such a cursed item damages my chi and permanently reduces my inner force to 4.
I return to my boat, which sinks, and I wash up on The Isle of Fables. A deft bit of honest diplomacy with the elves there means they lend me an elven boat to pass the Fangs of Nadir and pass into the Elemental Sea. I hang a left through the Fangs and pass into the ocean beyond where I soon spy the island the Grandmaster told me of. Water Elementals are a hazard here but my boat deftly steers between them until the Kraken wakes... but due to my possession of the amulet retreats, allowing me to make landing on the mysterious island.
Here I must fight the devil beast. Acrobatics serves me well against initial rush, but I miss with my shuriken, and the battle is joined. It's a surprisingly weak opponent, despite a couple of surprises including a final eyebeam attack that nearly kills me. I finish the foul thing with a chop to the neck and as its body dissolves the orb and scepter are revealed.

Picking up the orb and scepter then magically transports me back to Irsmuncast! Hooray! But what's this? The city is shrouded in smoke - Irsmuncast is aflame, and orcs and dark elves throng the streets. The city appears to be overrun, and as I look horrified upon it's ruin, I am delivered a message from none other than Honoric - The Legion of the Sword of Doom is coming and my city, and my life, shall be forfeit. CLIFFHANGER ENDING!

Well fuck.

Really enjoyed this part as well, although it did seem a little rushed - compared to the first two books, where an overland journey is played out in all it's dangerous glory, here I felt quite quickly shuttled from one set piece to another, although the infiltration of the rival ninja lair was a highlight and also pretty nerve-wracking. The Grand Master battle felt like the 'main' one here, with the devil beast being quite a straightforward follow up. The ending magically whipping me back to Irsmuncast really reinforced that and in a way this felt like two books smashed into one (one of the reasons I split this writeup) with the first half being the better half. I'd have happily played a full book of me managing the city followed by another of me questing to get the orb and scepter.
That ending though - talk about a cliffhanger / shock! And with my loss of eye, this could be the first book where I actually start weaker than the previous one.
Oh, and I didn't make a single fate roll in this gamebook.
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