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Author Topic: Gamebooks  (Read 11402 times)

Blue Cactus

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #420 on: 30 July, 2022, 04:16:24 PM »
Stealer of Souls is a good one.

What is Assassins of Allansia like?

I enjoyed it. Basically someone has put a bounty on your head and you're on the run, moving between locations and deciding where to go and who to trust while you try and work your way towards the big baddie. I got quite invested actually, I really wanted to get to the bottom of things. Being a target made it feel kind of personal! Need to try that one again at some point.

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #421 on: 01 August, 2022, 10:01:39 AM »
Mighty collection there.
I also have Assassins of Allansia and I'm looking forward to giving it a go: good to hear it's a fun one. I heard it's very tricky - I really like the concept.

The Duelmaster books have you both playing at the same time, but at certain points (at the end of most paragraphs) you get told to wait until the other player gets to a wait prompt and then you both read on. Taking actions gives you keywords, eg if you take an item or kill a monster it'll say record keyword x and then if the other player enters that area later he'll be prompted to ask if you have that keyword: if so he'll be redirected to another paragraph saying there's a body here, or an open chest, and so on. I've not played Clash of Princes but I'm assuming they work in the same way.
Arena of Death is like a little head to head version of Deathtrap Dungeon. It's the same arena as featured in the first WotT book, but also has an underground area.
Valley of Death is a more lopsided one in that one player is a hunter and the other the quarry. The hunter player starts off at a huge advantage - a powerful character, and able to set allies and traps about the valley, but the quarry character has the easier ride, if they play smart. It's a very interesting dynamic.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #422 on: 01 August, 2022, 02:42:42 PM »
Way of the Tiger: Inferno!

This is it - the finale of WotT. Sort of. This was the last book in the series as of 1987, but a final book was released in 2014 to resolve the series.
Reading around the series before I started picking up Assassin onwards I heard that this book has a poor reputation and generally is regarded as a bit of a clunker. I'm playing the 2014 rerelease as I couldn't get hold of a copy of the original, and I understand there's been some errata applied but I don't know what (as I have avoided spoliers!)
Here we go.

We begin with peace in Manmarch. The Legion of the Sword of Doom is finished following Honoric's death, and the forces of the Rift have melted away, ceasing their raids. Irsmuncast is broke, and I have needed to borrow heavily to repair it following the events of the last book (this, sadly, is irrelevant) but all is well.
The book starts with the sighting of a force from the Rift. I have been awaiting news of my old friends Glaivas and Dore, who have mounted an expedition into the Rift itself because Dore is a lunatic: instead what we get is a bunch or Orcs in the company of none other that my old enemy Cassandra and my old pseudo-ally Foxglove. They are asking for amnesty to enter the city. Gwyneth hates Foxglove as she thinks it was she that betrayed the city in book 5 and suggests we ride out and capture them, but I am supposed to be a just ruler so I grant said amnesty and Cassandra and Foxglove are brought before me: the latter in a very sorry state. Cassandra, who is in charge of this delegation, gives me the news that The Black Widow now rules the rift in place of Shadazar (killed by me in the previous volume) and that she has captured Glaivas: I can swap him for my sceptre which I must deliver myself into the Rift. There is no word of Dore who is apparently 'within the Rift'.
I can read Cassandra with my Shin-Ren skills and see that she speaks truly, but that she is desperate to kill me. Foxglove on the other hand is in a pitiful way, corroborating Cassandra's story and both begging for her life and pleading not to be sent back to the Rift. Cassandra tells me she used Foxglove to get into the city and now I can have her or she will take her back, giving me the choice of sending her back, having her executed at Gwyneth's request, or having her held as my prisoner to accompany me into the Rift. None of these seem like ideal choices here: I found Foxglove to be my most useful advisor, but I know she's evil - however two choices here seem bang out of order so I choose the latter. I also have the option of detaining / killing Cassandra but I did declare amnesty so I let her depart - her parting advice is to take the narrow path on the fourth tier to avoid a trap even I could not hope to survive.

There is no question of me not heading off to rescue Glaivas so I gear up and Foxglove and I depart. I decide to show trust to Foxglove - not guarding her and so on - in the hope that this will be reciprocated. This is a mistake. The day before we're due to enter the Rift she comes to me in tears saying how awful things have turned out for her etc. and asks for an embrace. This should have set the alarm bells ringing but I offer one anyway - before I can stop her she has 'stolen a kiss' and cast some enchantment magic upon me. However! I have the Shin-Ren skill and I do not fall under her spell through supreme force of will. I have the option to let her go again here, but I decide to still bring her into the rift with me, resolving to watch her closely and it looks like this is a mistake too as she then asks for the sceptre and I hand it over before she gives it back, confident in the knowledge that she can make me to stuff. Ooops.

At last we descend into the Rift, Foxglove staying twenty paces behind me. The rift is split into levels or tiers - I imagined it as being as sort of giant natural cavern, but it's more Moria-like, each level containing rooms, stairways, passages and the like. The first tier is mainly deserted but the second tier is described as populous, being made up of complete villages and towns that both trade and fight with each other for resources and 'are too focused on staying alive for frivolity'. It's a wretched sounding existance and it really strikes me here what a horrible lunatic the likes of Dore must be, as he came here essentially to attack these settlements and kill as many of its inhabitants as possible. I need a disguise, so I silently kill a Shambler - a small orc-like creature - and steal its grime-covered furs. A skilled mimic I can copy its gait and hopefully pass for one. I steal some chains and put them on Foxglove - she is not happy about this - and drag her after me pretending she is a captive.
It's not long before my disguise is tested as I am confronted by an Orc Chieftan and a bunch of his mates who wants to take Foxglove from me for some terrible purpose. I'm not handing her over, so I challenge the orc to one-on-one combat - he finds his hilarious, as I am a lowly Shambler, but he's not laughing when I snap his neck with the teeth of the tiger throw.

Leaving the second tier we descend further and find the scene of a battle: a bunch of Dark Elves and Orcs, obviously slain by good guys of some kind. The third tier is thick with smoke and the sound of its denizens. Here am ambushed by none other than the four adventurers I met way back in book 2: Eris the magician, Vespers the swordsman and priests Thybault and Taflwr. They ambush me, because killing hapless Shamblers is their thing, but I throw off my disguise (after taking a serious amount of damage) and reunite with them. Here Foxglove makes her move, throwing herself at them and asking for help in renouncing evil, but because I'm not enchanted, I'm able to put a stop to this and tell her not to speak to them. So far bringing Foxglove along has been interesting but not helpful! I'm not really sure how these four guys have got so far into the Rift but their assistance is welcome, and we combine forces and move onto the fourth tier, which is infested with strange, grotesque mushroom trees and lit by fires and furnaces. Following Foxglove's advice (and common sense) we opt to avoid the main route down as it is said to be guided by Fire Giants and instead take a sinister, quiet secret pathway down into the depths.
The pathway is quiet, a change from the bustle of the main level. Everything is shrouded in cobwebs, and it seems we really are on a secret stair. It is here that I peer inside an ancient samovar only for a small spider to suddenly burst out of it and run INTO MY OPEN MOUTH before climbing up my Eustachian tube and 'before long I can feel it fidgeting about under my brain'. WTF. Horribly the book asks me if I now have two brain-spiders so it seems this horror can strike more than once. Emerging from the secret stairs I urge my companions to take the narrow path, as Cassandra suggested, only for us to be pitched headlong into a smaller chamber where a reception committee awaits.

It is indeed another trap: my old enemies Cassandra, Tyutchev and Thaum are here - although, the boom states, hiding from the Black Widow instead of doing her bidding. They have drawn me here, but their looks of glee turn to surprise when they see I have arrived with backup. The heroes and villains exchange insults as the battle lines are drawn. As ever, Thaum opens the fight with his magic, in this instance a blinding flash - I am wise to it and shield my eyes, but Eris and Taflwr blinded. I use a shuriken to stop Thaum casting again and close with him whilst Vespers and Thybault clash with Cassandra and Tyutchev. He is a weak opponent and easily felled, but before I can finish him off I am blindsided by Tyutchev who I throw into Cassandra. It seems that my guys are in trouble - Thybault is down, Eris is still blinded. I engage Tyutchev, miss two kicks in a row and am getting royally killed when another threat bursts into the room - The Krathak (it is not explained what this is) being driven by Dark Elf minions of the Black Widow, come to kill everybody. Everyone flees through a secret door to the Worldworm - a gigantic snake statue that it is said coils to the very centre of orb. Everyone dives into it's maw (I elect not to kill Cassandra as she holds the maw open) and everyone then plunges out into a void. A prayer to Kwon cannot help: instead I plunge into a huge spiderweb, at the mercy of the gigantic Black Widow as she emerges from the darkness, a juicy morsel for the queen of evil...
THE END..?

So: this book wasn't as bad as I'd heard, but it wasn't great. What was helpful is that in the original printing I understand that this indeed marked as THE END, whilst in my newer edition it simply says something like 'you're doomed, unless you can escape..?' and finishes there. For the gamebook player of 1987 this must have seemed an appalling end to the series, and I can see why a final book was commissioned.

That aside this was the weakest book in the series by far. There was no use of my ninja skills aside from Shin-Ren, no mention of Kwon until the very end, only one fate roll, and only one fight (I don't count the one against the orc)- and in that, against both opponents, it ended after 3 rounds regardless. The writing is still good, but it's lacking some of the atmosphere of the previous books: I found it hard to visualise the environs of the Rift and some parts seemed skimmed over, especially the ending which felt terribly rushed - one minute I'm locked in combat and them suddenly a massive unknown monster arrives, we jump into another monster and then it's all over. It very much feels like either the authors ran out of steam or motivation to finish and just wrapped it up. Having Foxglove with me didn't make a huge amount of difference although that may have changed had I been entirely under her spell or taken a different route: in the end she just made herself small whilst the battle raged around her and, I assume, escaped into the Worldworm with everyone else. There was no clue as to what happened to Glaivas or Dore. Finally it was pretty easy: the first WotT book I completed in one attempt - although I finished it on 4 endurance so and probably would have died had the battle with Tyutchev run it's course. Skimming through there are some auto-death paragraphs but they seem to relate to making poor choices.

A note on the art for the new edition - it looks like it was painted in full colour for the hardback Kickstarter editions and the reproduction here in B&W is poor, with the images often being quite murky: there's a nice picture of Foxglove and a great one of the spider at the end but the others aren't good. There are however some lovely maps of both orb and Irsmuncast.

Book 7 coming up soon.
You're a dark horse, Boots.

Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #423 on: 01 August, 2022, 05:38:40 PM »
Quote
the book asks me if I now have two brain-spiders

Love this.

I wonder if the rushed ending was due to the writers being told this was the final book? That could certainly put a dampener on the creative spirit.
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Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #424 on: 01 August, 2022, 11:11:29 PM »
Talisman of Death

I enjoyed this book, as the world is so well realized. I always rated the level of detail provided for Orb's pantheon of gods.

The built-in restart options are interesting, and (in some ways) just give you permission to do what most FF players are already doing - avoiding sudden death scenarios. This gets a bit ridiculous during the Greyguilds segment where you lose the Talisman, as there are lots of "well, now you're dead" options that teleport you back to the edge of The Rift. It's quicker, in most cases, to just go back a section and try the other option (or re-roll luck, or whatever), as, effectively, that's what the restart is allowing you to do.

I love that the enemies Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum are lethal. It's quite common in a D&D campaign that a wise player needs to know who to fight and when to beat a hasty retreat. FF don't tend to go for that much - making almost everything a battle you can win. The potential bar fight (although you're better off avoiding it) has a great tactical structure - forcing you into some difficult decision making.

The second save point was well done, as it let you know you didn't need to go back to the start to pick up things on your new shopping list. The fact that you get five torches, flint & tinder - and are told to be careful with them, proved something of a red herring, in that counting those or having or not having them isn't part of the narrative.

Summary: a really good FF book, and a gateway drug to the Way of the Tiger series. I'm looking forward to taking on Sword of the Samurai (FF20), as I've never played that one, and it's by the same authors.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #425 on: 02 August, 2022, 12:07:47 AM »
Yes I wasn't interested in the Samurai one before, but I might have to try it.

I completed WotT2 today, will write it up tomorrow.

Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #426 on: 02 August, 2022, 09:42:40 AM »
Yes I wasn't interested in the Samurai one before, but I might have to try it.

Yep, it was one I nabbed off Barrington recently. Like you, it had never really appealed before, but after all these effusive write-ups of WotT and Talisman of Death, I'm itching to give it a go!
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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #427 on: 02 August, 2022, 10:19:12 AM »
Way of the Tiger: Inferno!

So: this book wasn't as bad as I'd heard, but it wasn't great. What was helpful is that in the original printing I understand that this indeed marked as THE END, whilst in my newer edition it simply says something like 'you're doomed, unless you can escape..?' and finishes there. For the gamebook player of 1987 this must have seemed an appalling end to the series, and I can see why a final book was commissioned.
Fairly certain I didn't realise it was really the end and assumed there'd be another one along shortly.
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Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #428 on: 02 August, 2022, 03:57:43 PM »
Way of the Tiger: Inferno!

So: this book wasn't as bad as I'd heard, but it wasn't great. What was helpful is that in the original printing I understand that this indeed marked as THE END, whilst in my newer edition it simply says something like 'you're doomed, unless you can escape..?' and finishes there. For the gamebook player of 1987 this must have seemed an appalling end to the series, and I can see why a final book was commissioned.

When I played it in the 80s, I was mostly confused, because it was such a downer of an ending (to the book - it wasn't clear it was the last one by any means). With the ambiguous wording, it seemed like there was a hint that this wasn't the real closing paragraph - you know what game-books can be like - so I remember searching the book for a hidden ending that I thought I must have missed.

1987 printing:
Quote
Here on the seventh tier you will make a juicy morsel for the Queen of Evil, unless you can master your despair and somehow rid Orb of its darkest blight.

The end


2014 printing:
Quote
Here on the seventh tier you will make a juicy morsel for the Queen of Evil, unless you can master your despair and somehow rid Orb of its darkest blight...
++ map ++ thrills ++ coma ++

Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #429 on: 02 August, 2022, 05:22:39 PM »
I'm glad I didn't have to wait 27 years for the next book!

Way of the Tiger 2: Assassin!

I actually started this book as soon as I finished the first one, but after I got killed for the third time I took what was supposed to be a short break. I finally came back to it yesterday!

You start exactly where the first book ended, which means you have to escape from a castle filled with your enemies. It's entirely in keeping with this, and quite cool too, that there are a couple of encounters where the book asks you if you have already killed them in the last book. But the downside of this is that you are basically rewarded if you chose (or defaulted to) the shittest way to enter the castle in the last book, and penalised if you found the best route in. Having avoided fighting an actual god on the way in, I sometimes had to fight him on the way out. (It's possible to avoid him on the way out too, but only by a lucky dice roll and then having to fight something else.)

That aside, escaping the castle is quite easy. Staying ahead of your pursuers is harder. First I was hunted down and torn apart by a pack of dogs. Then, heading for the hills, I fell into a labyrinth of goblin-infested caverns, which is the toughest part of the book. After being killed there twice, I cheated and read the whole bit, and discovered that it is indeed very difficult all the way through-- Frodo would not have survived this! And even if you escape from the caverns, you pick up the plague while you are in there! And then -- with very low endurance by this point -- you have to fight a ghost!

I read enough to discover that there is a third route which avoids the caverns altogether, which involves a side-quest featuring mermaids and sea elves. I wasn't excited about that, so I decided to take a little break and come back to it later.

Yesterday, I picked up the book again, and took the third route, which is a much, much easier one than the hunting dogs and the goblins. (In fact, if you survive the dogs you still end up among the goblins anyway!) I save the life of some sea elf prince and he rewards me with a magic item which I correctly suppose will come in handy later. The next encounter is the scary ghost from before, only this time I still have all my endurance points so I actually manage to defeat it. In doing so, I rescue four rather hapless adventurers who were fighting it and losing; a rare moment of comedy in this series. I am surprised to read a sentence which tells me that my character is nevertheless still impressed at how powerful and competent they are, which is rather at odds with what I have just read about them! Maybe ninjas don't get out much?

They're a bit suspicious of me, given that I'm dressed in full ninja garb, but they heal my wounds at least. I leave them to probably all get murdered later, and strike off on my own path. I kill a brigand, using my new Poison Needles skill that I earned as my reward for completing the last book. He turns out to be working for the baddies whose leader I assassinated at the end of said book. I enter a city, where I am ambushed by three characters I recognise from FF's Talisman of Death -- Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum! They're cross with me because I killed their friend in the last book. (That was actually an avoidable encounter in that book, but the introduction to the second book insists that it definitely did happen. Fortunately, I actually did kill that guy, so I don't have to feel aggrieved about it!) Outnumbered, I use the sea elf's present, which conjures up a water elemental to fight them, and it kills Thaum, but the survivors somehow summon a monstrous scorpion deity which makes short work of me. Starting again from the start of the ambush, I keep the elemental in reserve until the scorpion god shows up (and my human adversaries make themselves scarce), and then the scorpion god defeats the elemental! At least the elemental did manage to reduce my foe's endurance by half, and I manage to finish it off -- but this whole encounter is absolutely brutal! It's pretty good though, as it gives you a variety of options, including which order to attack your opponents in (not that you get to fight them one at a time, it's more about who don't you want attacking you from behind while you're fighting the other two!) and which weapons to fight them with. The scorpion god, while incredibly tough and not really a fair fight unless you have a magical weapon handy, is a memorable opponent, and is described in the text as much more horrifying in appearance than the rather tame illustration on the front cover (first edition). The god doesn't technically die, it is banished to the Void (hell itself apparently), in the process literally opening a seemingly permanent portal to the Void right here on Orb! But that's a problem for another day, it seems! Sorry about that everyone!

That massive epic fight appears to be unavoidable no matter which route you take through the book. But I am rewarded for one of my decisions with a new +1 combat modifier and I can choose which attribute to apply it to. Which is nice. Unfortunately, Thaum survived in the playthrough in which I survived, so I'll probably have to face him again in another book.

Leaving that city, I am asked to choose which way to go. The map at the front of the book makes this an interesting choice, instead of a random one. Since my objective is just to get home, I choose the route which seems to make the most sense (later reading of the bits I missed shows I was right!), and I'm soon in another city. I find a monastery dedicated to my own god, where the friendly monks help me out, but then I'm killed by an assassin who is disguised as the chief monk!

Instead of re-starting, I just go back to a bit before then, and this time I use my "Arrow-Cutting" skill to block his throwing knife and survive. But he escapes, vowing to get me another time. (He just might; this is the Mandrake character in one of BB's playthroughs of a later book.)

A ship takes me half-way home, and drops me off on an island, which I have to cross and then get on a second ship from the other side which will take me the rest of the way. While on the island, I accept a side-quest in which I kill two monsters and rescue a child. The lord who rules the island then welcomes me as his honoured guest and puts me up for the night, during which I am assassinated by another ninja, of the rival Way of the Scorpion. He kills the guards and then sneaks into my bedroom by climbing upside down on my ceiling! We fight an epic duel with swords, shuriken, and poison needles, and he gets me with poison. He's impressed at my resolution in the face of death, so he honourably chops my head off so I don't have to endure a slow death by poison. Which is nice of him.

For my next playthrough I go back to when I landed on the island and this time I ignore the side-quest, as it took up too much of my endurance. This choice has an interesting effect: it means I meet the lord of the island a day earlier than I did in the last playthrough. Last time, he had just won a battle; this time, the battle hasn't happened yet, and he wants me to prevent the need for it by assassinating the enemy general! This general turns out to be a shapeshifting demon, who kills me. On my next and final playthrough, I kill the demon and take the credit for winning the war -- nobody but me knows that they would have won anyway! I kill the ninja assassin this time (using two of my Inner Force points in the fight), and that is the last encounter. At paragraph 420 I get home to a hero's welcome.

I really enjoyed this book, and it has all the things I liked about the first one. I'll start the third one soon!
« Last Edit: 02 August, 2022, 05:27:14 PM by Richard »

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #430 on: 03 August, 2022, 09:53:48 AM »
Awesome writeup Richard! So glad you're enjoying these.

I didn't try the undersea route in any of my plays and I quite fancy going back and giving it another try. I really loved this book: the fight against Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum is great and the final duel against the ninja rule. I also don't see what's so good about the adventurers - I just met them again in book 6 and they're totally rubbish there too.
I think Cassandra & co must have the record for how many times they've killed me across various books.

I wonder if the rushed ending was due to the writers being told this was the final book? That could certainly put a dampener on the creative spirit.

Reading around, the publisher and the authors did have a falling out causing the abrupt end. It sounds like Mark Smith and Jamie Thompson felt they were being messed around and jumped ship to write Duelmaster instead, hence Inferno not being to the same standard as the others.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #431 on: 05 August, 2022, 12:14:32 PM »
Freeway Warrior Book 2: Slaughter Mountain Run

Back to the Apocalypse! It's another long writeup I'm afraid because these books pack in a lot. Split into 2 parts, because of length, and work.

With two down I've got the hang of these books now. The combat can be quite swingy, but generally isn't a huge threat: what is is the barrage of skill checks you encounter as you play through. Often failing one will deal you a chunk of damage, but sometimes they can be outright deaths. There's also a lot of randomised rolls that can do the same, and on these, rolling low isn't always a bad thing. This is a composite playthrough though, because I still died a couple of times going through it.

If you've finished the previous book you get extra skill points at the start. Stealth is by FAR the most important and most tested skill. In the last game I quickly learned to keep my stealth at 5, here I boosted it to 6 meaning I could pick up more items, take a stealth penalty, and still have stealth 5. FWIW I went into this with Stealth 6, Driving 5 and Shooting, Perception and Field Craft 4. For my starting items I chose the pistol, binoculars (very useful in book 1), a flare (as I needed to make a rendezvous) and 2 meals.

The last book ended with me (Cal Phoenix) successfully escorting the colony to Big Spring but ended on a cliffhanger as the Mavericks abducted my ally / love interest Kate. This book begins by confirming that the leaders of the Mavericks and the Detroit Lions, Amex Gold and Mad Dog Michigan, were old terrorist buddies and the two gangs have joined forces to attack Big Spring. The attack has been successfully repulsed between books with the gangs taking heavy losses, but Amex Gold has given Kate back to Mad Dog as a show of loyalty. Mad Dog has reached out to bring two more clans into the alliance, the New Orleans Saints and the Angelinos. With such overwhelming force the leaders at Big Spring decide the only hope is to break out and convoy over to Tucson.

I was a bit disappointed to see this setting up the same plot as last game, but thankfully I immediately state my intention to withdraw as scout for the colony and pass responsibilities over to Rickenbacker (the pilot guy) whilst I head off to San Angelo to find Kate. First though we have to break out and this is where the book begins. With the Lions off at San Angelo we armour up a bunch of trucks and blast out, ramming through the Mavericks barricades and scattering their men. I dodge through some hazards and once we're clear split off from the convoy, agreeing to rendezvous at Kent on Interstate 20 in seven days.

I follow the Highways for a while: on Highway 158 the book notes I'm able to increase speed to 30mph! It's baking hot and I pull over into a ramshackle ruin for shade and rifle through an abandoned hardware store: in the heat this saps my endurance, but I pick up a couple of odds and ends: a toolkit and some plastic tubing. Pushing on past several Texas landmarks, I ambush and brutally kill two Clansman, lootting them for extra water and ammo and medical supplies and also taking some rope and a leather face mask. At Sterling City all I find is feral cats but approaching Broome I'm forced to duck into a used car lot to avoid a large group of Lions bikers. Here I also scavenge some engine oil.

Reaching San Angelo after a full day's drive, only the city centre is still standing and heavily reinforced with roadblocks and barricades, firmly under the control of the Angelinos clan who, I note, are heavily tooled up but a lot of their equipment seems rusted and in poor repair. I steer the car quietly through the ruined suburbs, eventually parking it in the Sears Megamart underground garage and getting a quick two hours sleep before attempting to infiltrate the city on foot at first light when the heat is more bearable. My plan is to break in through an office block on the perimeter wall.

I'm able to gain entrance by busting through some warped timber barricade and get into the lobby of Lone Star Oil & Gas. As is my habit I keep left, eventually going downstairs into what would have been the office restaurant and kitchens. There's an Angelino in the kitchen: I foolishly give him a chance to surrender and after he shoots me up a bit I put him down and loot him for bullets, med supplies and a blanket as well as looting food from the kitchen and a cleaver, which is a better weapon than my knife. From there it's into San Angelo itself. The bulk of the clansman are congregated at the Reagan Memorial Stadium where it seems some kind of motorcycle rally / race will be happening whilst Mad Dog signs a pact with a guy called Mekong Mike, the Angelino leader. For some reason I'm convinced Kate will also be there (I'm right, but not sure how I arrived at that) so I resolve to break into the stadium , which is full of hostile lunatics. Given the choice of stowing in one of the service trucks containing bike parts of getting in over the wall I choose the latter as the first seems suicidal. My strong stealth score sees me through: inside the race is being prepped (there's some Ben Hur comparisons) but my eyes are for the media box, where I spot four clansman and none other than Kate herself!

With all eyes on the track, I gain entrance to the observation tower. There are guards from each of the two clan factions, but I sling my flare into the corridor and move in to silence them quickly (and no doubt messily) with my cleaver before busting into the media room, flattening one enemy immediately and gunning down a second. I now face the two clan leaders: Mekong Mike is described as mustachioed and brightly dressed with a steer skull tattooed on his forehead, whilst Mad Dog wears black and has receding long hair going to grey. I'm quickly into a knife fight with the former: he's as skilled as me, and although my cleaver gives me the advantage I drop him in six rounds (its a timed fight) but am left on just 5 health. Mad Dog has meanwhile been on the radio alerting the gang: he has a gun trained on me, but before he can fire Kate wallops him with a chair and down he goes.

At this point, insanely, I am not given the choice to finish off Mad Dog Michigan. Given he has a blood debt against me, and has kidnapped Kate twice and done goodness knows what, and is a former member of HAVOC and leader of a huge gang intent on taking over the Southern United States, it seems remiss to leave him unconscious in a pile of chair splinters. So of course I totally do that and instead satisfy myself with stealing his special map (and using a load of medkits) before we do a runner. There's a full hue and cry in effect as we descend into the body of the stadium itself and Kate is smart enough to spot a service hatch to take us into an electrical duct and from there into some kind of service tunnel beneath the stadium. I don't have a torch or indeed any source of light having not learned my lesson from last time so we blunder around here for a bit (one of my deaths occurred here when I opened a hatch right into a massive group of vengeful Angelinos), eventually using the cables to feel our way along in the darkness before light from glass bricks set into the ceiling brings us to a hatch at the stadium entrance. It takes us an hour to reach the perimeter wall, but our way is blocked by four clansman who arrive in a jeep. I don't fancy making a run for it so I wait till they're spread out and we try to steal their jeep: there's no keys but I nab some antiseptic dressings and after deliberating, a shotgun and two shells before we make a dash for a fire station. We're spotted and under fire: I take a chance to grab a fire extinguisher (not having one cost me last game) and switch my cleaver for a fire axe which has the same stats but is a lot cooler. It's a full in chase into Sears - a clansman grabs Kate, crushing her throat but a blast from my pistol sends him descriptively flying like a leaf in the wind - and back to the car where we can high-tail it out of San Angelo with both gangs on our tail. Oh, and Mad Dog has taken over the Angelinos now, smart move leaving him alive. It's not like I haven't killed dozens of other bad guys...

End of part 1.

As you can tell I'm still enjoying this a lot. Same issues as before - fiddly inventory / encumbrance management and random numbers often causing mishap - and I only had one fight in this first part (The Angelino boss) with all the others being quick kills with my gun or knife. The writing is still evocative and full of detail though, the use of real places & a map based off real Texas gives a real sense of travel, and the heat is used to good effect - I really don't want to be out in the middle of the day! Now we're linked up again, Kate is resourceful and cool unlike the Mungos of the FF world who either drag you down or die instantly (although the sparse dialogue between you and her is pretty weak - but we're not reading this for good dialogue really) and there's a feeling of a real world existing beyond just the things you immediately encounter yourself. And the bad guys names are excellent.

Part 2 to follow!
You're a dark horse, Boots.

Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #432 on: 06 August, 2022, 12:26:07 PM »
Oh dear, your character and his inconsistent conscience! Avenger wouldn't have been so sloppy!

Great write-up as always.

Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #433 on: 07 August, 2022, 09:11:04 PM »
Way of the Tiger 3: USURPER!

This is a tough book. Rather than describe each playthrough, I'll just describe the two main routes through the book.

At the start, if you have played the previous books, you can roll one die and the result may increase your various skill modifiers. I rolled a five, which was a great result, adding one each to my kicking and throwing abilities.

At the start of the adventure the chief monk tells me about my true identity as the son of a murdered king, and that my destiny is to return to the city-state of Irsmuncast and reclaim my birthright from the usurper of the title. He teaches me a new special skill of my choice. Since if I succeed I will be ruling a city, I think that the skill of reading people's hearts and intentions (not telepathy, just very astute reading of body language and micro-expressions) will come in useful, instead of another combat skill, so I go with that. When I'm ready to embark on my quest, I next encounter someone from the last book, the lord who I won a battle for by assassinating the enemy general, and in gratitude he offers to send 100 samurai to assist me. They will need time to prepare so they will be following me later.

I now have to choose between two routes to Irsmuncast, both for me and also, separately, for the 100 samurai who will be following me. The shortest and most direct route is to sail to the port of Doomover, a dangerous city I visited in the first book, which is full of my enemies. Alternatively, I can go to Tor, which is further away but friendly, where I can meet an ally, Glaivas, a minor character from the first book (a bit like Mungo except he didn't die). On my first playthrough I choose Tor for both me and my samurai army, and in my next six playthroughs after I die I return to this point or to a later point, so confident I am that this is the right strategy (it isn't!).

Route 1: via Tor

I sail to Tor and meet Glaivas without incident. There's a funny paragraph in which we are looking at a map (each WotT book has a full colour, detailed map) and I point out to him that one of the cities is in a different spot to where it was in the map in the first book (which I have checked and it's true!), and Glaivas just shrugs it off as "a scribing error."

My new special skill comes in handy as I recognise an assassin who is trying to look all casual and that, and so I decide to avoid the roads and trek through the countryside. Glaivas comes with me. We walk through a forest (why don't we at least have horses?) and I'm attacked by a panther, but Glaivas makes himself useful and gets rid of it. I am then attacked by some demon or possibly deity from the Spirit Plane, which begins to materialise in the physical realm, but I escape to the Spirit Plane myself, and then find my way to an allied deity which defeats it for me. (From reading around this bit subsequently, this is a fairly large and detailed mini-adventure in which, somehow, I managed to make all the right choices on the first go! There are a lot of opportunities to fuck up and immediately die here.)

Unfortunately the land between Tor and Irsmuncast is the domain of a thousand year old undead git called the Fleshless King, and all the humans who live here are his slaves, kept in line by his army of orcs and halvorcs. (It's actually quite a good bit of world-building, and it hints at plenty of stuff you are not actually told about as well as the things you are told.) We have to fight some orc slavers (my first death), then escape from some undead Nazgul types, but Glaivas pulls his weight in all of these bits, fighting orcs, giving me holy water to throw at the undead, and casting a spell to fend them off. At the other side of this evil realm, the anti-Mungo says farewell and we part ways. It's a good section of the book.

I next encounter a knight (this I later find is where the two main routes through the book converge). This is a tricky encounter, as although he is not evil and is potentially a very useful ally to have later, there are several opportunities to fuck this up, and either having to fight him (he's tough) or having him just tire of you and wander off. But on my second attempt I get him to give me a ride all the way to Irsmuncast on his horse, and heal all my wounds -- and he is going to come back and help me later!

I arrive in the city of my birth, explore it a bit and learn about it from various people. Basically the usurper is an evil bastard who taxes everyone into poverty and generally oppresses them, unless they convert to the religion of Nemesis the Cleansing Flame, the most powerful of all the evil gods. So there is a ready supply of downtrodden, resentful peasants, who I easily manage to recruit to my cause. Next I speak to the leader of some warrior women called Shieldmaidens, who used to be the city guard under my father's rule, and recruit her too (on my second try as I fail to impress her the first time). Then I speak to an influential merchant, and I have no idea if I have successfully recruited him or not. (Reading around the book a bit later on, there appear to be three possible outcomes of this meeting, one where he sends a werewolf to kill you, and two where he doesn't do that but I currently don't know which of those two is better.)

There is a fourth faction I could attempt to recruit, some lofty priests who don't care about current affairs and politics, and I decide not to bother. I infiltrate the palace, find a useful magical artifact, win a duel of minds with a telepathic weirdo, and reach the throne room, where I meet the Usurper. He turns out to be a demon. He summons a second demon, and then together they summon two more demons!

This is a savagely brutal fight, and not really a fair one to be honest. When you fight the first demon, he automatically injures you at the start of each round for 4 endurance points of damage (from a maximum score of 20), even before you roll dice and stuff to see who hits you. If you do hit him, your blows only cause half of the normal damage, and on the first hit you automatically lose 2 endurance points just for touching such a powerful demon (he's "a Duke of Hell"), so you are actually better off choosing whichever method of attack you have the lowest skill modifier for, because you are better off if you lose each round! And if he hits you, you lose three dice of damage! You can reduce this damage by 3 or 4 points if you have either of two magical items (I have one of them), but that's not much good if you roll three sixes! After two rounds of combat, he summons the second demon and then just watches you two fight it out. (When later on you fight him again, his reduced endurance score is given in the text, so it doesn't make a difference whether you hit him or not earlier.)

The second demon is less powerful than the first, but you can't use Inner Force (a damage multiplier) against him. After two rounds against him, the third and fourth demons are summoned. At this point you can drink a healing potion, which I don't have. Fortunately I didn't have to fight them, because the knight from earlier shows up and fights them both. If you manage to defeat the second demon, the knight has vanquished the other two, but is too badly injured to help you any further, and you have to fight the first demon alone. That fight is even more unfair, because instead of letting you choose between kicking (I have a +3 modifier) or punching (0 modifier), the text says you can now only punch him, even though I was allowed to kick him earlier! Fuck off!

This is just too much; the fight is completely unwinnable without the potion of healing. So I go back to almost the start of the book and choose the alternative route.

Route 2: via Doomover

The most annoying thing about this route is that when I arrive at Doomover, instead of entering the city I just get off the boat a couple of miles up the coast and skirt around the place instead. WTF?!!! If I had known that was an option, I would have chosen it in the first place!

Another slightly annoying thing about the Doomover route is that it has two healing potions! However only one of those is available to me, as the other requires a special skill I don't have.

The first encounter is an evil martial arts monk who challenges me to a duel. This is a really good section of the book, as the duel arena is a large area with many choices of where to go (and there's another map). A lucky dice roll means I get to stealthily take him out with a poison needle, instead of getting into a massive fight. But I have since read all of this section, and it's just very good indeed. (It reminds me of the car chase in The Rings of Kether.) I find the healing potion on his corpse. (There's another paragraph where if you injure him without killing him, he drinks it in front of you!)

On leaving the arena I encounter Honoric, the evil dude I thought I had assassinated with poison at the end of the first book, but he has survived. This fight is inconclusive, as after a while the fight is interrupted and you both live to fight another day. He's obviously going to be a recurring character in this series.

I am then pursued by a Golem, which I manage to shake off by leading it to a bottomless pit ("the Rift" from Talisman of Death), and then I reach the knight where the routes meet up.

But even with the healing potion, I still can't get past these bloody demons!!! They've killed me four more times!

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #434 on: 08 August, 2022, 11:25:32 AM »
Good writeup Richard. That fight at the end of Usurper is, imo, the hardest one is the entire series. It's ridiculously tough. I think I only got through by inner force on the usurper demon the second time when his endurance is reduced. Not being able to kick is indeed bollocks given kicking is the best thing to do in almost all other fights!
I've never gone via the Tor route and it sounds a lot of fun.
You're a dark horse, Boots.