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Author Topic: Gamebooks  (Read 9322 times)

Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #330 on: 14 June, 2022, 05:58:06 PM »
Harsh, but totally fair criticism of Space Assassin. The art is glorious though.

Brave to attempt Snow Witch on a low skill. It's a good house rule, but frankly you're better off cheating -- after all, if the book doesn't play fair then why should you?

Talisman of Death, playthroughs 2 to 5

Playthrough 2:

Skill 12, Stamina 15, Luck 8, Potion of Fortune.

Having worked out the best route to the city on my last playthrough, I follow that route until I reach the Envoy of Death, who demands my Talisman. Last time, I fought this guy and kept the Talisman, only to unavoidably lose it on the next encounter. Since I now know I'm going to lose the Talisman whatever I do, it  makes sense to just hand it over -- or so I thought! He instantly kills me with it! This time the gods don't bring me back to life, so that's that.

Playthrough 3:

I roll new stats to make it legitimate (9-19-11, oops!), but instead of starting at the beginning I just carry on from the point where I left off. I fight the envoy, kill him without being wounded, and from there I soon reach the point where I got up to at the end of my first playthrough. This time I go with the man who rescues me from the man-trap, who turns out to be a friendly Sage. He sends me to the Red Dragon Inn, which I go through the same way as last time since that at least worked out for me, and then go back to the Sage for dinner. He tells me how to get back to Earth. Progress at last!

Now I go to the Thieves' Guild, and this time I manage to get them to help me. We infiltrate a temple where the stolen Talisman is being held, and I lose a Luck point for letting my new allies gratuitously murder someone. We find the Talisman and the evil High Priestess who has it, and the thieves leave me to it. She immediately sets me on fire, and then moves in for the kill. Her Skill is 12! Needless to say, I die pretty quickly.

(Having since read just about the whole book, I can say that there is no way through the book that does not involve fighting this woman, with a skill of 12 and a 1 in 3 chance of losing 6 stamina points at the start of the fight.)

Playthrough 4:

Fuck it, it's time to max out the stats: 12-24-12.

I start over, and follow what seems to me to be the best route as far as the infamous Red Dragon Inn, where I forget how I went through it the last time and accidentally pick a fight with the deadly duo of assassins from the Way of the Tiger books! Fortunately they are not actually quite as invincible as the barman had led me to believe, and I give a good enough account of myself until they decide to escape.

On my way back to see the Sage for dinner, I take a detour and find myself in a bit of a comedy skit, at the end of which I pick up a Spell of Agonising Doom -- sounds promising! I use that on the priestess and it takes 8 off her Stamina, which is handy, but she still has that same Skill score. This time I win, but at a cost of half my own Stamina. She immediately begins to come back to life, but I steal her Ring of Regeneration and she dies permanently. This also gives me 6 Stamina points back. I escape with the Talisman! Huzzah!

I am ambushed by the two assassins from the Red Dragon, who are accompanied by a third guy, a Master of Illusion. I make all the wrong choices about which illusions are real and which are not, losing 8 Stamina as a result. I call on a goddess for aid, as advised by the Sage, and an eagle rescues me. He doesn't fly me out of the city though, the lazy git. I have to escape on foot.

Back in the wilderness, I take the most direct route to my final destination, a mountain where the portal to Earth is. I am threatened by a Wraith, and I manage to ward him off, but just after that I make a poor choice and get slaughtered by six Wraiths!

Playthrough 5:

I carry on where I left off, get past the Wraiths, get some useful advice from some friendly pig-people hybrids, and defeat a Dragon. This Dragon is not like the wuss in Firetop Mountain, he's a tough bastard, and after subsequently reading all the alternative choices I could have made, it seems like a miracle that I got past him on the first go!

Paragraph 400 says I might have to come back to Orb again. You know what? I just might! I think I'll pick up one of these Way of the Tiger books!

Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #331 on: 14 June, 2022, 06:39:21 PM »
Since I now know I'm going to lose the Talisman whatever I do, it  makes sense to just hand it over -- or so I thought! He instantly kills me with it!

Proper LOL moment.
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Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #332 on: 14 June, 2022, 06:48:05 PM »
Other ideas for approaching notoriously HI-SKILL books would be to:

a. Roll 4D6 and apply the four results however you wish to your three attributes.
b. Roll 4D6, sum it and apply the summed results however you wish to your three attributes (but not going above the 12/24 cap, obs).

Not sure which I like better, but it would do something to alleviate the issue of some books just being a bit OP.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #333 on: 15 June, 2022, 08:52:12 AM »
Paragraph 400 says I might have to come back to Orb again. You know what? I just might! I think I'll pick up one of these Way of the Tiger books!

This is awesome! If you play and enjoy Avenger I'm happy to send you my 'spare' reprint copies of Assassin and Usurper (unless you'd prefer to hunt down the originals for the Bob Harvey art)

Great writeup though. Love that you loved it, and also when you handed over the Talisman to the guy who killed you. There's an item you can find before the Dragon fight that makes it a lot easier!


And on the topic of skill and Talisman of Death, I read about a guy who on that book used Funt's house rule about increasing his attack strength over starting skill but not increasing his skill for skill tests, as there's a number of skill-boosting items there that in the context of the story should make you a better fighter. It's really logical in that context.
One of the reasons I rated CotSW a bit lower than it deserved is that dying in battle because of a succession of high skill fights sucks - especially when they seem a bit illogical (I can buy DD's ninja and pit fiend fights being super tough, but CotSW has a Skill 12 bird man who is just there with no relation to the plot at all). If I've failed a couple of times due to low skill I do tend to just max my skill out for the next play. I think it's your book, you play it how you want.


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Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #334 on: 15 June, 2022, 10:44:57 AM »
One of the reasons I rated CotSW a bit lower than it deserved is that dying in battle because of a succession of high skill fights sucks - especially when they seem a bit illogical (I can buy DD's ninja and pit fiend fights being super tough, but CotSW has a Skill 12 bird man who is just there with no relation to the plot at all).

The Bird Men are prominent antagonists in the Sorcery! series, where they infest the mountains of Kakhabad and do the biding of the Arch Mage. The third Sorcery! book came out the same year as CotSW, so I imagine it was a little tip of the hat from Ian to Steve.

Still doesn't stop him being plenty random, though. Like the useless bloody genie.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #335 on: 15 June, 2022, 10:56:39 AM »
Quote
If you play and enjoy Avenger I'm happy to send you my 'spare' reprint copies of Assassin and Usurper (unless you'd prefer to hunt down the originals for the Bob Harvey art)

Very kind of you, thank you! But I think I will get the ones with the original art in them.

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #336 on: 20 June, 2022, 09:23:59 AM »
I don't blame you on that one, it's what I did!

Mind you, my copy of Overlord has mysteriously become lost in the mail and I've been forced to order another copy from South Africa, of all places - the book itself cost next to nothing, postage was not cheap but still cheaper than getting a copy in the UK. I'm not sure I'll be able to get an original printing of book 6 at all, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #337 on: 21 June, 2022, 06:10:03 PM »
No work for me today so I have had a chance to play a few rounds of Freeway Fighter

There's a great little intro to this book explaining how and why the world has been reduced to Mad-Max-dom. The plague (for plague it is) has wiped out the bulk of the worlds population but must have beefed upo the survivors considrably as my STAMINA is 2d6+24 instead of 12. You also roll up stats for your car: for my first play my car was very heavily armoured and armed but I myself was super wimpy. This turned out to be not very relevant as I died quite a lot.

The story here is that I must travel from my home settlement of New Hope to the friendly settlement of San Anglo, where I will trade our grains and seeds for a huge supply of petrol. Because civilization is in ruins I will travel in a souped up car armed with rockets, machine guns and all sorts of gadgets. Leaving New Hope, my first encounter is with a guy headed to New Hope himself, who warns me not to stop at a garage ahead. I head out of the ruined town and soon find said garage - I'm not sure I'd stop at this anyway, because a fully functioning garage selling petrol in a post-disease wasteland seems a bit suspicious - so I take the guys word and speed on by out on the highway, where I'm soon attacked by the red chevy from the books cover. I wipe them out with only a single hit on my Interceptor, but soon after I realise I'm short of fuel and need to deviate from the highway. In addition 'one of New Hope's leaders' (no further info than that) calls to tell me the Sinclair, New Hope's big cheese, has been kidnapped by an evil gang of bikers and to look out for him.
I know from previous experience that fuel is the key to this book. In full Mad Max mode I spot a broken down ambulance I stop to see if I can get any petrol but it's a trap - I make hard work of the bushwhacker (my wounds reduce my skill even further) but triumph, stealing his money and weapon but for some reason make no attempt to siphon any fuel from his vehicle. I keep heading east, blast through a roadblock and gun down some more bandits. They seem to be the biker gang who've just trashed New Hope, and they're holed in a nearby town called Rockville. Given these guys have snatched Sinclair, I divert there - the bikers all charge into a single house and start blazing way at me so I calmly pull up, shrug and blow the house to matchsticks with a rocket. That's it for the bikers! I free Sinclair and off he goes with barely a word. I'm then able to salvage some tinned meat and petrol from Rockville's general store and wirecutters from the first room I check in a house - there's two rooms here and but in FF it doesn't pay to press your luck when you've found a good item in one of two doors, chests etc so I leave it and head off, deciding to keep heading East and then South towards San Anglo.

By now my fuel is running low, so I use up the petrol I'd previously scavenged and sleep in my car overnight. Next day another car randomly attacks me, but I dump oil over the road and he crashes into a ditch. I head South, dodge some maniac trying to drop debris on my car and stop to loot another crashed car, this time only for odds and ends and an angry rattlesnake. I dispatch some more attackers but pretty soon I'm out of fuel and sadly, walking back to New Hope. GAME OVER

Attempt 2 also fails - this time I take a different route and get my car modded by a friendly mechanic to make it faster in the hope that that will help, but still end up running out of petrol at the same point. Attempt 3, same thing. This is getting annoying - with no compass I'm literally just driving about aimlessly hoping to reach San Anglo till I run out of fuel, a map being the thing that I perhaps should have taken with me. No wonder the world is in ruins when chumps like me are the heroes around here.

Attempt 4 - I follow the same path to rescue Sinclair, plus this time I'm not a complete wimp so I am able to deal with the highwayman a bit easier. This time I take a less obvious route and find some guys about to engage in a race - for petrol. Now in theory this is a daft idea, as I need petrol and engaging in some kind of race should burn a load of fuel... but I know how this works so I sign up. The race precludes rockets and guns, but I soon find out nothing else.... as I speed away into the lead but my opponent fires a grenade at me! Relying on my luck I accelerate over it before it explodes and considering the gloves are now off, I dump spikes on the road, which doesn't do much, then sideswipe him, keep my nerve and accelerator jammed on to zip into the lead and luckily win the race. The petrol is mine although I notice I don't win the credits back I had to stake to take part!
I'm pretty broke now so can't afford to get my car modded by the mechanic but I'm back on familiar territory - I loot the crashed car for the spare wheel and plastic tubing, kill the snake and press on, weakened from the snakebite but feeling positive I am now on the right track.

Next day I investigate another crashed car, but lack a crowbar to break into the trunk so have the leave it. I'm then assualted by some absolute nutters who have done their truck up to be like a roman chariot. This fight is bogus - I'm only hit twice, but for 12 damage! Eventually I remember I have rockets and wreck this stupid chariot with one before, like every other car I've blasted off the road, drive off at once without checking for information, ammunition or petrol.

By now the car is in a state. I finally do manage to siphon some petrol (thank you plastic tubing) and fix my battered car up somewhat. Continuing on I'm flagged down by a lady who introduces herself as Amber - she's a scout from San Anglo sent out to look for me, but her car has been wrecked. She reveals that San Anglo is under siege from the 'Doom Dogs' who want to steal the petrol. This bit is all a direct ripoff of Mad Max 2, with the gang even being led by the Lord Humungous-alike 'The Animal' who is a musclebound masked man with a loudspeaker. I politely explain to Amber that my car is a wreck and won't last long against an army of lunatics but she cheerfully explains we're going in on foot. Ok then.

We ditch the car and sneak into the Doom Dogs camp under cover of darkness. At this point I have to make three luck checks in a row without any meaningful decision in between: my luck by now is rubbish, I blow the third test and am discovered but luckily the knuckledusters I took from the bushwhacker allow me to put down the guard silently. Using my scavenged wirecutters we get into the Doom Dogs vehicle compound (the Doom Dogs have carefully parked all their cars together) and Amber plants bombs on the lot. Time to leg it! The bombs all go off but one, and there follows a predictable dogfight with The Animal in his armoured station wagon. After a couple of passes the wagon rams us: I die here again, impaled by a spiked ram on a fluke failed skill check but at this point I've sort of had enough, so I reroll that and the two vehicles end up locked together.
Here I'm given the option of fighting Animal in hand to hand combat but the bloke looks like an absolute monster and I'm not exactly mr healthy so I decide on a close quarters gunfight with everyone blazing away from inside their locked together cars at each other. Amber and I gun down four goofs but the Animal busts out and charges me, levels me with a clothesline, hulks up for the crowd and clamps on a bear hug. As my ribs start to pop and my vision starts to fade, Amber arrives and clocks him on the head with a spanner. Instead of finishing him off we inexplicably tie him up and leave him for the rest of his gang to find (this would make more sense if I hadn't killed about a dozen guys already and he wasn't the leader of a vast gang of murderous bandits destroying the wasteland, but oh well)

Anyway - we're away and soon San Anglo, hurray! It's then attacked by more Doom Dogs, oh no! The inhabitants mill about uselessly leaving me to take charge. There's another luck test (failed again, shot again) but I repulse the attack, let the bad guys go again, and I've won!
Or not. I thought this would be the end, but no - I have to drive the tanker back.

This part of the book proves a bit perfunctory however. It may be because I've already killed nearly everyone between here and New Hope, but I have a single combat encounter on the way back - aside from a choice of sleeping in my cab or literally abandoning it overnight to sleep in a ruined motel, I think not - which results in a duel (ie comparing skill scores) with a skill 7 mook. I gun this guy down and then there's a very sudden ending which basically says 'you're back, well done! If you rescued Sinclair, double well done!' THE END.


As you can probably tell, I wasn't impressed with this book. I'd played it as a kid and remember really enjoying it - it may have been because I was really into GW's Dark Future and Mad Max films because it's really not very good. After a fairly detailed and immersive setup it's surprisingly light on details, not helped by the art which is quite flat - I'm sure I have read that the artist was asked to deliver the art at the last minute after the original comissioned artwork by another source proved unsuitable, but it's a far cry from the detailed stuff in the previous book. The adventure itself seems to go on forever, culminating in the Mad Max 2 siege before you're asked to drive back but this part only takes a few paragraphs, as though the book ran out of space and had to rush the ending - the ending itself being rather brief. The stuff with Sinclair is totally pointless and barely referred to once you've freed him apart from at the end saying 'if you did this too, extra credit' - there's no penalty for letting him die and no real interaction with him (although you need to go rescue him to get the wirecutters) Oh and it doesn't even have 400 paragraphs!
On the plus side Amber is a genuinely useful companion who doesn't get Mungo'd or blunder haplessly into traps and actually bailed me out of trouble, although she isn't really fleshed out and isn't seen again once I reach San Anglo. The race bit, although daft, was the best bit as it involves several skill checks, decisions and short, terse paragraphs that gives a feel of being under pressure and needing to make quick decisions.

Then there's the fuel situation - I get what the book was going for, but what it turns out is essentially three checkpoints where you have to have the fuel to continue and therefore three true paths to follow in each part. I suppose it's not much different to getting to the end of a dungeon / forest / castle only for someone to ask you if you've got three keys / gems / bits of a hammer etc but I found it pretty frustrating.

Overall then, not very atmospheric or immersive and sadly not one I enjoyed much. Perhaps I will have more luck with TEMPLE OF TERROR.



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Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #338 on: 21 June, 2022, 07:55:05 PM »
Nice playthrough. I enjoyed Freeway Fighter back in the say - but, probably same as you, that would have been heavily influenced by fondness for the Mad Max and Car Wars franchises. The racing part is interesting - and the sort of thing Car Wars focusses on - that really the combat is often an organized death sport.

My sister spectated the Finke race in Oz this year, and reckoned it was the go.

Slightly off topic, but I was mapping Island of the Lizard King for a project, and I noticed that one of the immediately negative items you pick up then comes in handy twice, later in the book. I like that design.

Probably Freeway Fighter would be more interesting if they stole even more from Mad Max and had an extended sequence in a war-rig. I've been imagining that would make a good computer game along the lines of Bomber Crew or FTL.

Oh no - now I've got to re-watch these...
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #339 on: 21 June, 2022, 09:05:34 PM »
That write-up is more entertaining than the actual book! I remember getting very frustrated with it after running out of fuel numerous times, instead of being defeated by a monster or a trap or whatever-- such an anti-climax!

My first Way of the Tiger book has arrived so I'll probably do that one next.

Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #340 on: 23 June, 2022, 06:52:31 PM »
Sorcery! – Kharé, Cityport of Traps

The Playthrough – Lower Kharé


The roaring of the manticore still rings in my ears as the mighty city walls of Kharé finally loom into view. Outside I share a ration with a fairly affable beggar, and we’re soon chatting away like old friends. It’s from Tomas (for such is his name) that I learn it’s as hard to get into Kharé as it is to get out again. There’s only one South gate, guarded by a whole regiment of gaurds; and one North gate, locked by a spell, proverbially impossible to open. I can’t believe that. There must be a way, or all is lost. Tomas and I – he with his password, me with my key – help each other get inside the city. Slipping through the gates first, Tomas breaks into a run, leading the guard (deliberately or otherwise) away from the yard. I seize my chance to duck into the city myself, trying not to think about the fact I might never emerge from inside these walls again – but if I can’t survive the admittedly infamous streets of Kharé, I was never going to survive the Fortress of Mampang anyway.

The guard catch me on the backfoot, returning before I’ve even left the yard, and I’m forced to duck into the only building in sight. It looks to be a prison, and the door is locked, of course – but what’s a locked door to a master of sorcery…? The only prisoner inside is an old man with one arm, who seems less bothered about being locked up than he is delighted to have someone to play swindlestones with. When I admit I don’t know the game, he takes it upon himself to give me a crash course.



[Swindlestones is a new addition for the app. You’ll spend  a lot of time playing this highly addictive but sometimes frustrating minigame, beloved of both lowborn and highborn denizens of Kharé. A bit like Liar’s Dice, it’s a great way to win some gold and – most importantly – gossip. The Sorcery! 2 app adds in a ‘clue’ section to your inventory. Everyone loves a gossip while playing swindlestones, and by playing lots of games, you can learn all sorts of interesting things about the city that’ll help you in your mission. The higher the bids and the longer the game goes on, the more useful the conversation – so sometimes you’ll have to weigh calling your opponent’s bid in the near-certainty he’s bluffing; or choosing to ignore the bluff (and maybe sacrifice a win) to keep the conversation going. You can also get clues just by talking to people, or by keeping an ear open as you wander the city.] I learn a bit more about the North Gate and its spell – only the City Nobles know the spell, and the spell lines were split between them for safety. So I’ve got my work cut out for me. That’s four separate Nobles (and their spell-lines) to locate, as well as the right order…



When things have quietened down outside, I take the opportunity to slip out, turning downhill and putting as much distance between me and the Gates as possible. When I happen across a lonely inn, I duck inside. Being used to the prices asked in the villages of the Shamutanti foothills, the going rate for a room here in Kharé  makes my eyes water. As the innkeep says ‘Try sleeping outside for a night, and you’ll soon see why the rooms cost what they do.’ Keen to put my new skills to the test, I offer to play him at swindlestones for the price of the room. I trounce him in two games running – not to brag, but I think I’m something of a natural! Then I do something I’m not sure my character would ever have done before leaving Analand – decide to go and sleep outside instead, and pocketing the gold. The innkeeper’s plaintive ‘But I thought…’ escorts me out into the night.

I make camp in the shadow of the city walls, but I’m not asleep for long – I become aware that there seems to be a wolf, or something like it, slinking through the trees. I snatch up my sword, and then it comes for me – and I’m more than a bit startled to see that it’s wearing armour! Once I’ve run it through, there’s an even bigger shock in store, as the body of the wolf becomes that of a young woman. A WEREWOLF…? But… it isn’t even a full moon. Curiouser and curiouser. I make time to bury the corpse, and try to catch a little more sleep before the sun rises, wondering what my time in the cityport will bring if this has been an accurate taste…

Next morning I hug the city wall, heading roughly Northeast, although there’s not much to be found in this portion of Lower Khare – just the bones of old farmhouses, tumbled and broken. The first complete dwelling I find turns out to be a chainmaker’s forge, whose chains twist and rattle eerily from the ceiling. For some reason I don’t immediately announce myself, but steal softly inside to start a gentle ransack of the place… I’ve turned up some gold pieces and a copper key when the chainmaker, a none-too-gregarious svinn, surprises me. I manage to bluff it out, although I’m forced to buy a silver chain to stop him being suspicious. I don’t like who I’m becoming in this blighted city – five minutes here, and I’m already swindling innkeepers and stealing from honest tradesmen!



The sun climbs high into the sky as I walk among the fields. My stomach begins to let me know in no uncertain terms that I missed breakfast, and sitting on a rock to eat some bread and cheese turns out to be an extremely good idea. There doesn’t seem much more to be found here, at the poor end of a poor district of a poor cityport, so I turn West, away from the city walls at last, and deeper into the metropolis. An intriguingly high fence around a seemingly empty field attracts my interest – despite appearances to the contrary, there must surely be something worth protecting inside, right? A quick cast of BIG grows me momentarily to gigantic proportions, and I simply step over the barrier. Strange. It really does just seem to be a field of plain old grass. Why would someone– And then I see something glinting among the green. Aha! I don’t waste any time, but stoop to grab – May the Whale protect me! Something in the grass – or maybe the grass itself – has got hold of my wrists, and starts pulling me deeper, and deeper down… A desperate prayer to my guardian spirit releases me, and I’m straight back over the fence, trying not to think about what might nearly have happened there… I spend late morning scything wheat for a farmer for a little gold, so when I pass a fortune teller’s stall I don’t mind sparing a coin to hear my fate. She seems to have a genuine gift, as she knows a lot about my quest thus far – and she seems to think that I ought to visit a priest by the waterfront for a further important clue.

Further on, and a bundle in the gutter actually looks, on closer inspection, to be a person. Of course, this could well be a trap, and there’s nothing to stop me walking by… The other citizens of the city certainly are, with that sullen, studied expression of disinterest that I’ve already gotten so used to in my short time here. No. Determined that Kharé will not corrupt me, I pause to check if he needs help, as the Analander of old would have done, back in the Shamutanti Hills. As I shake the shoulder of the… thing, the head rolls toward me, black lips peeling away from rotten teeth in something that might be a mockery of a grin. He starts to get up, but the movement is somehow all wrong – the way the elbows and knees are bending beneath the blanket doesn’t seem to make any sense. And as the covering falls away, I understand why – the limbs aren’t attached to each other. I’ve woken a LIVING CORPSE, and the ensuing fight is one of the most disgusting I’ve had since leaving Analand (and I had to fight a skunkbear, so I know whereof I speak).



Finally, mercifully, the sundered appendages fall back to the ground. A cheery little gnome thanks me for putting him down, saying that it should be another month before he rises again. The districts of Lower Kharé apparently dump this obscenity on each other with regularity, happy for it to be someone else’s problem until the next time. Truly, this city is a cesspit. Having already put a few new sword-holes in it, it’d seem pointless to quibble about quickly searching the body for clues or gold before I move on. Just as well I do, as there’s an extremely interesting scrap of parchment lodged in the throat. That wasn’t just any old common-or-garden zombie, but the mortal remains of Second Noble Moulas, and I now have the first of the four spell lines to open the North Gate!

Later I come across a burnt house beside the road, which is intriguing, so I climb in among the blackened timbers, looking for clues or treasure. A young man watches me ransack the smoking ruins from across the street, and rather pointedly asks if I knew the owner. I suspect he knows the answer full well, but I admit I didn’t. “Oh? Just thought you’d have a little poke around and help yourself, did you?” he asks. Chastened, I mumble an excuse and hurry away. [Brilliant. I think this is the first time a gamebook has actually called me out on this sort of thing!] Further up the road is the grandest house I’ve seen yet, but it doesn’t have a very lived-in feel. I seem to very much have the taste for breaking and entering now, as – having made sure nobody’s watching me this time – I slip quickly inside (in my defence, this does look exactly like the sort of place a City Noble might live).



It’s a labyrinthine place, though inhabited now only by cobwebs and dust, and takes me a while to fully explore. There’s the usual sort of nonsense with snakes and trick staircases, but upstairs I find a badge – the Badge of the Seventh Noble, Theeta. Was this his mansion…? The most important discovery comes in a hidden room beneath the main house. A makeshift altar stands at one end of the room, dedicated to a deity named Courga. Someone has daubed the golden statue of the god with what I suspect must be clues to his ritual – the sort of thing that can only be useful to me, though it might not be for a while. Mayhap this is linked to the priest I was told to seek…? The same person – presumably – has also left bloodstained bandages on the altar, as if in offering, and scrawled the legend GIVE ME BACK MY EYES in vast letters of haemoglobin. Bleurgh. Thoroughly creeped out, I leave this mausoleum of a house to its ghosts, and press on, hoping I haven’t missed a spell-line. What gives me heart is that I didn’t find Theeta himself – hopefully he’s still out there in the city, somewhere.

Dwarftown is next. I draw many stares as I pass through the streets, but I seem to be viewed more as a passing curiosity than a threat, and I stock up on many interesting wares at a dwarf merchant’s. Beyond Dwarftown is the Artists’ Quarter (I’m slightly surprised that a sinkhole like Kharé has an Artist’s Quarter!), dominated by the vast bulk of the Market. The market is baffling to the senses, a cacophony of trader’s patois, energetic haggling, angry arguments. The air smells of incense, spices, glues and oils, conflicting smells all coming at me at once. And of course, this being Kharé, most all of the sellers and costermongers that I speak to try to rob me, kill me, or both. Of particular note is the armless artist that I speak to. Asking him how on earth he manages to paint such works, he invites me to look inside his studio – where I’m astounded to see a paintbrush  working by itself! As soon as I enter, a new canvas flies onto the easel, and the paintbrush starts painting anew. Suddenly uneasy, I ask it to stop. The paintbrush just gets faster. I try to grab it. I try magic. I can’t catch it, and it just gets faster. The bastard thing has soon finished the painting of me – and then I step out of the canvas!




Fighting myself is a… strange experience, to say the least. Back outside, the artist doesn’t deny that it was a trap. He doesn’t even have the decency to be ashamed! I see some recently finished canvas paintings of men that are surely City Nobles, and in a fit of pique I grab them. ‘For my troubles,’ I say. It turns out I now have paintings of Sansas, Shinva and Theeta – so I’ll know them if I see them. No Lorag, though. Heading back down into the slums, I descend into a well [perfectly normal gamebook behaviour, but why would someone really do this?!] It’s not pleasant, but hey – any trip to Kharé is a metaphorical wade through sewage at the best of times! I disturb a RATBEAR, but the fight is a small price to pay; scratched on a wall is the remnant of a four-line poem. Could it be…? I’m fairly certain this must be the spell for the North Gate – and though it’s too worn to help work out the spell, enough is legible to tell me the order of the four lines once I get them. Not a wasted trip, thankfully!

Back on the surface, a hand emerges from regions unknown, clamping itself over my mouth, and I’m gently persuaded into the shadows (the unseen blade between my shoulders helps). ‘Don’t worry,’ a voice whispers. ‘I’m a friend.’ I fully expect to now see my old assassin mate Flanker, here to repay his debt, but I don’t recognise the face of the man who’s ‘invited’ me into his house. Apparently an old adventuring buddy of Glandragor, the innkeep from Biritanti, he seems a gregarious sort, but… I dunno, something in me just takes umbrage at being accosted like this. While he serves us two tankards of ale, I slip on my skullcap to cast TEL and read his mind. I can’t say I’m too surprised to learn that the ale is drugged and he desperately wants me to drink it – but that’s about all I can learn of his identity or intentions, as he’s also batshit insane, with a mind like fractured glass. Politely declining the ale just enrages him, and suddenly VANGORN THE MURDERER, as he proves to be, is coming for me with sword in hand. (That’s right, he has ‘murderer’ in his name!) Afterwards, I ransack his hovel guilt-free.



After Vangorn’s I next come across a small shrine, where a white-robed priest is preaching to a crowd, calling for someone to take the Test of Slangg, God of Malice. Presumably this is the priest I was told to find, so after watching someone else fail the Test, I step up to the front. I’m offered an easy question – which will come with a sacrifice – or an impossible one. Apparently – so a woman in the crowd says to me – nobody ever chooses the easy question, and nobody has ever answered the impossible question. Perhaps I’m being too clever for my own good, but surely there’s an obvious trick here? If the ‘impossible question’ really is impossible – what’s the sense in trying it? Asking for the easy question, the priest asks if I will first accept Slangg as my God. Slightly apprehensively, I agree. Well, I don’t have to mean it, do I? The priest lays hands upon me, and I begin to feel my Guardian Spirit slipping away from me. I won’t be allowed to just pay lip service to the idea – this is really going to happen! My Spirit’s been good to me on my travels – I haven’t called on it often, but it’s always come through for me when I have, curing me of plague and preventing me being flattened by a boulder. I quickly chicken out – but it’s too late! Slangg is now my God whether I want it or not, and quite frankly he sounds like an absolute arsehole. I answer the easy question, then for my ‘reward’, I ask about the North Gate spell, and get a new clue for my troubles. Whether it was worth the cost remains to be seen…



Night is rapidly drawing in as I reach the docks, and I need to start thinking about somewhere to sleep. At a wharfside inn I play some swindlestones with a drunken sailor to wind down before bed. As I leave the table, a voice from the shadows asks if I’d care to try him, instead. It’s Flanker! Over a mug of ale, he gently questions me about my time in the city so far, laughing heartily to hear that I’ve now got Slangg for a deity. (Thanks.) Finally, he agrees to repay his debt by taking me to see the elusive Council – if I can first best him at swindlestones. If I don’t, he gets to kill me… Lucky for me that Flanker has no idea just how adept I’ve become at this game. Once beaten, he honours his word, and off we go to the Council. It's a really interesting escapade, where I learn some fascinating things about Portal Traps that I’m not going to spoil here – and the fact that there apparently is no Council running Kharé! This night of heady revelations puts the cap on my second, exhausting, day in Kharé.



The next morning I’m up with the crack of dawn, waiting impatiently for a little old man to let down the only bridge across the Jabaji. Whether karmic justice for my exasperation I don’t know, but my eventual journey across the bridge is accompanied by an increasingly ominous creaking, and I’m suddenly dumped into the river as the ancient planks break apart beneath me! An exhausting (and disgusting) swim gets me safely to the north bank, but everything paper-based in my inventory has been ruined, along with all my rations. Only my precious spellbook has survived. If there’s an upside, it’s that the dunking has drowned all the fleas I picked up thus far in the cityport. Not just me being cute – my character really had picked up fleas! It’s something of an inauspicious start to my time in Upper Kharé, and it’s about to get worse…

Walking west, I soon find I’ve blundered into an ethnic ghetto of some kind. All the creatures here are strange, sour folk with pallid skin and, weirdest of all, closed eyes. Unlike Dwarftown, the air here is stifling and oppressive. My prescence is not tolerated, but openly resented. Best not to tarry. Alas, I’m quickly surrounded by a gang of youths, and being surrounded by a gang of youths in an unfamiliar part of town has never ended well for anyone, anywhere, in the multiverse. It’s no different on Titan. The ringleader opens his eyes – just a crack – and I’m struck dumb with pain by the baleful red light beneath. No wonder they all keep their eyes closed! He threatens to look at me, all over, if I don’t do what I’m told, and I don’t think this is an empty threat. I’m sweetness itself as I talk to them, positively queasy in my politeness, but things quickly go south all the same. For the sin of being a ‘whiteyes’, I’m beaten unconscious. Upper Kharé is not kind.



I wake up on a stone cot in a prison cell, bruised and battered. No time to feel sorry for myself – I’ve got a mission to get on with. I’ve been carrying several keys around since my time in the Shamutanti hills, and I’m keen to finally find out what they do. Wouldn’t you know it – the first one I try in the lock is the one that opens the cell door? Blind chance? Luck? Or is Slangg not quite the capricious deity I’ve been led to believe? Whatever the truth, there’s a Red-Eyes guard to deal with before anything else; I take out my silver chain and whip it around him, totally incapacitating him in its coils. Except…. Except that being bound by a chain does nothing to stop him simply turning his head, and opening his eyes…
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Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #341 on: 23 June, 2022, 06:53:52 PM »
And so my adventure ends there. [Well, not really – having come so far, of course I immediately got back on the horse and had another attempt, but for now this first death seems a nice enough place to end the write-up. I really don’t want to ruin all the surprises of Kharé…]

The Verdict
If nothing else, this is a massive game. The above is about half of my eventual (complete) playthrough, and - having already maxed out the character limit for a forum post(!) - I left out an awful lot of detail even from the part I did write up; the Festival of Thieves, the bathouse, a lot of the smaller, low-key encounters and swindlestones games with various citizens of Khare, a lot of the items I picked up for use in spells (didn’t want to ruin all the fun of exploration for you), and two main overarcing narrative threads – the attempt by the mysterious Vik and his agents to take control of the city (Vik for First Noble!) and the story of what exactly happened to the various members of the ruling Council. It becomes clear pretty quickly that First Noble Sansas has recently made a powerplay and moved against most of the others – Moulas, Loragg, Shinva, Theeta – but where are the others? Alive? Dead? …Something else? Something worse? Where is Sansas himself? What does he have planned next? And what will happen when Vik tries to take the city for his own?

I love that your character arrives in the aftermath of most of these events, and has to gradually tease out the truth by a myriad of little clues and NPC encounters. It’s interactive narrative at its best, and the antithesis of Firetop Mountain’s tedious ’Having gone left, you arrive at another junction. You can once more either go left or right.’ The worldbuilding is exquisite – like the street where people have to use ladders to get into or out of their houses, as they’ve all bricked up the downstairs doors and windows in a final exasperated defence against the thieves of Kharé! Steve Jackson creates such an immersive world here that, when I finally reached the North Gate, I just wanted to turn around and dive back into Kharé.

Honestly, the worst thing this game did was end. I’m already having swindlestones withdrawals! This is pretty much the gold standard, by which all other gamebooks will now be judged. 9.5 combat dice out of 10.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #342 on: 24 June, 2022, 12:33:34 AM »
What a great write-up! You've inspired me to give Sorcery! another go (although I'll still try WoT first as it's new to me).  What was the reason it lost half a point?

Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #343 on: 24 June, 2022, 11:48:17 AM »
What a great write-up! You've inspired me to give Sorcery! another go (although I'll still try WoT first as it's new to me).  What was the reason it lost half a point?

The only real fault for me (and this may have been entirely a result of my missing the relevant encounters) is that the Sansas/Vik plots didn't seem to be resolved. I thought at least one of them was being set up as the 'big bad' of the game, but I eventually left Khare having never met either one. Felt a bit unsatisying, after so much careful seeding of their plots.
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Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #344 on: 24 June, 2022, 12:35:21 PM »


Having now played roughly a third of the gamebooks that I own (thanks to this thread), here’s a recap. What do we learn from this? Er... nothing revelatory. I need to get better at winning the things, that’s for certain – though in fairness I ‘ve not cheated once, and generally only attempt one playthrough per book, whether that means death or completion. Perhaps there’s a slight reptilian bias to the creatures that have killed me, but I don’t really seem to have made any obvious nemeses yet. Onward!
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