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Messages - Dark Jimbo

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What was in the Prog when the first Case Files was released? Was it around 2006?

Yep, December 2005. Running in the prog were the likes of Ten Seconders, Caballistics, Red Seas and Leatherjack. Dredd had just wrapped up Mandroid.

General / Re: FFT - What if? Derby Week Tie 10 - Savage vs Invasion
« on: 28 September, 2022, 09:20:27 AM »
Savage is great - Invasion is a bit grating.

General / Re: FFT - What if? Derby Week Tie 11 - Halo Jones vs The Out
« on: 27 September, 2022, 11:44:44 AM »
For some reason, I thought we’d already had this one.


Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 23 September, 2022, 01:21:56 PM »
I'm glad you finished it! I remember the Time Serpent bring much harder to beat than that, so much so that I thought it was the hardest of the four books!  I don't know if I just struggled to find the correct route or if the Past Light Towers weren't in the book (I don't remember them, but it's been about 20 years 🤷‍♂️). You seem to be indestructible!

Though it didn't seem like it in the write-up, the middle section of the game (the Forest/Marsh/Steppes) took me aaaaaaaages. I haven't used the 'rewind' function much up until now, but there was a section I tried again, and again, and again with increasing frustration - in the present, the second Past Light tower was impassable and I just couldn't work out how to get into it (and until I did, there was no discovery of the 'fast travel' system and no lightbulb moment, not to mention no fixing of the bridge).

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 23 September, 2022, 09:44:05 AM »
Sorcery! – The Seven Serpents III: Lake Ilkala
...because I know how desperate my loyal audience of *checks notes* two must be for me to complete the adventure!

Shamutanti Hills
Kharé part I
Kharé part II
Seven Serpents part I
Seven Serpents part II

Walking down out of the mountains, I’m immediately set upon by the Earth Serpent! Lava, avalanches, rockslides, earthquakes – it’s an admittedly terrifying onslaught of attacks to dodge. Once I have, though, it’s actually a fairly simple matter to cast my levitation spell on him. Contact with the ground thus broken, he’s temporarily powerless, and I take great pleasure in crushing his neck between my fingers.

Five Serpents down, two to go!

Lake Ilkala awaits, but the shoreline looks fairly bleak and uninviting. I turn North instead, to explore the ruined city of Tinpani, destroyed by the Archmage long years ago. There isn’t much to find even among the rubble, so complete was the city’s destruction.  A few animal teeth are all that reward my search. The Past Light tower is the only building still standing; one trip up to the mechanism and the city comes alive again. The streets suddenly full of merchants, traders and miners who'll only be alive for as long as I have the beam trained on them.

I go back into the building in whose future ruins I found the teeth. It’s the home of… well, not quite a dentist. A… tooth merchant? Toothmonger? Whatever he prefers to be called, he’s desperate for teeth for his business. I sell him back his own teeth, plus a few of those I’ve picked up myself on my travels, and walk away positively groaning with gold! I have a chat with a few of Tinpani’s denizens, then it’s back to the Tower. Now I swing it south, to shine on the lakeshore. Tinpani once more becomes dead and empty, a city only of ghosts, but now there is a thriving fishing community on the shores of Ilkala. My attention is immediately drawn by a fishwife, offering to grill the day’s catch. As the grilled fish in my pack were the only rations to survive my encounter with the Air Serpent (and I suspect there may be more drenchings to come in my immediate future!) I stock up on fish with the money from the Toothmonger. The smell and spit of the griddle makes my stomach groan with hunger, but when the fishwife hands me what I paid for, wrapped carefully in waxcloth, I carefully stash them all in my pack for later.

Mooching impatiently around on the lakeshore doesn’t get me anywhere much. I heard about a boatman on my travels, but he doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight, and there’s a bell on a post that doesn’t seem to summon anything at all. Tired of the fishermen and traders giving me strange looks, I resign myself to a long swim, and dive into the lake. To be honest, I’m expecting the Water Serpent to make its move the moment I’m away from the shore, but nothing happens. It’s hard going, but feels almost like paradise after so many weeks of tramping along dusty roads, and eventually I make it to the first of several small islands in the middle of the lake, and stagger ashore for a badly needed rest. I lay my head on my pack and sleep the sleep of the dead; but I’m then rudely awoken by a FIREFOX (other web browsers are available).

Once he’s dispatched, I continue a recent theme and help myself to his teeth (handily, they can be used to start fires). I go back into a fitful sleep, waking in the grey of another dawn to what sounds like a voice calling my name. I wander inland, calling back. The voice seems to know exactly who I am – but it’s warning me away, not calling me closer. I ignore the warning and press on to the centre of the island, to find a man tied to a single, blasted tree. With a jolt of recognition, I realise it’s a sightmaster… Not just that, it’s the Sightmaster Sergeant who saw me off on my travels when I left Analand. Abducted by the Archmage’s birdmen, he’s been deliberately left here in my path – as a trap, he says, but it also seems to be a very petty, very personal kind of message. The encounter doesn’t have a happy outcome, and I leave the island more determined than ever to end the Archmage’s misrule.

The WATER SERPENT finally makes its move a short time after leaving the island. It’s frankly a relief, and nice to have something to vent my anger on. A cast of SSS, and it tells me to beware the breath of Mucalytics; then it comes for me, fangs bared, wings outstretched. I have a second or so to think about what to throw into its open mouth. Thanks to Flanker, I know that its weakness is oil (always assuming he was telling the truth) but Fenestra said that the Sun and Water Serpents have a doomed love affair, because it would be fatal if they were ever to touch. I can’t deny I’d like to watch apocalyptic fireworks like that, but I also like the idea of having the Sun Serpent in an orb at my belt, and who knows but it might yet come in handy, perhaps at the fortress of Mampang? So I throw the flask of oil. It has an almost instant effect. The Serpent breaks into splashes of water, which rain down on the lake surface. And… that’s it! Easiest yet.

Six Serpents down, one to go.

An exhausting swim eventually gets me to the far shore of the Lake, and finally – finally! – the road to Xamen stands before me. I’ve done it. I’m the first Analander ever to survive the Baklands. Mampang Fortress is within sniffing distance… but there’s the small matter of the Time Serpent in my wake. Call it hubris if you like, but I just can’t abide the thought of letting the last one evade me; so I turn my back on the Xamen road and dive back into the lake, striking out for the island where the Time Serpent rests.

There’s something very strange about this place. Clouds shift; stop; move once more. Insects fly backwards, or sometimes stop completely. It’s as though the whole place runs on faulty clockwork. The Time Serpent is coiled in a pit at the island’s centre, totally immobile. It occurs to me that it might be sleeping, of course, but my descent into the pit is hardly quiet or dignified, and still it doesn’t stir. I allow myself to believe I’ve done it – worked out the key to its defeat. Lorag translated a verse from the goblin’s parchment that claimed to give the clue to defeating the Serpent – something about the Back and Forth of Ages Past. So I played a hunch, and trained the lights of the three nearest Past Light towers on the Serpent’s lair. Sure enough, the intersecting shafts of time seem to have pinned it in place. I run the creature through – still not quite believing it can be this easy – and still it doesn’t stir, except to open one baleful eye and watch me do so.

Seven Serpents down!

…but time was every bit as much my enemy here as the Serpents, and time might still be my downfall. It took me two full weeks to cross the Baklands. Even though his Serpents are dead, there’s every chance the Archmage is, by now, well aware of my approach. I suppose I won’t really know until I get to Mampang. So… call it a win with qualifications? Perhaps knowing I need the morale boost, an unseen Flanker has one last flirt with me – a curved assassin’s sword left in a tree beside the Xamen road, with the words A GIFT carved into the pommel. That boy really is very sweet. I hope I don’t have to kill him in the next adventure…

The Verdict
Still no swindlestones! Boo!

It’s a very nicely balanced game, this; I spent time travelling all over the place, talking to as many people as possible, stocking up on a wealth of items and clues – meaning most of the Serpents, for all their reputation, were actually quite easy to defeat – but doing this took a long time, which may have undone me in the final game. If I’d just bulldozed through on a wing and a prayer I’d have got through the game much faster, but probably found the Serpents a harder prospect.

Another great Sorcery! edition overall. I’m really going to miss not having another one ready to go when I finish the current game.

Megazine / Re: Meg 448: Graveyard Shift
« on: 22 September, 2022, 05:49:26 PM »
More of the same, but concludes the whole shebang.

Prog / Re: Prog 2300: On the Day of Judgement...
« on: 22 September, 2022, 04:16:58 PM »
Also, I notice Henry Flint snuck in a zombie Torquemada. I think that's the first time since the Pat spat that a Millsverse character has been depicted in the prog (not counting generic things like dinosaurs).

Zombie Slaine? Zombie Ukko? Zombie Ro-jaws?

General / Re: FFT - What if? Tie 8 - Armoured Gideon vs Mechastopheles
« on: 22 September, 2022, 07:58:58 AM »
Armoured Gideon. Annihilate!

Prog / Re: Prog 2300: On the Day of Judgement...
« on: 21 September, 2022, 12:54:37 PM »
pedant mode has to be engaged here - Torso was killed years before the events of Judgement Day, as was more obviously Wulf, so why are they here other than fan service? 

Torso was killed on the Doghouse by the Stix Brothers. Could he have been laid to rest there? Then been reanimated by whatever force is bringing the zombies back to life. Same goes for Evans.

The last panel of Outlaw is Alpha and the survivors launching the coffins of their fallen friends out into space. As for Wulf, Alpha uses a time bomb on the corpse after his brief zombie reanimation during The Final Solution to give him, too, a space burial.

Prog / Re: Prog 2300: On the Day of Judgement...
« on: 21 September, 2022, 11:21:54 AM »
Seems strange to do a zombie thing in 2022. maybe about 15 years ago this would have been new & novel? Seems old fashioned & tired.

Try 30 years ago - because I think a lot of people are missing the point. It's a bit of silliness to mark Judgement Day's anniversary, that's all. And Judgement Day was all about zombies, so it would be hard to do that without 'em!

General / Re: FFT - What if? Tie 6 - VCs vs Fiends of the [Various] Fronts
« on: 21 September, 2022, 11:14:51 AM »
I think the first VCs run is one where 'you had to be there.' I read it recently and it was... fine. I loved the first series of Abnett's revival, but I think that had a lot to do with Henry Flint, because my interest quickly dwindled there, too.

Fiends hasn't all been plain sailing, but there's no doubt it's had far, far more moments of greatness than VCs has ever managed.

Suggestions / Re: Judge Dredd TV series
« on: 20 September, 2022, 12:51:03 PM »
Not kind to fans leaving them in limbo for so long or making them scour the net for hours periodically to see what's what.

The word 'making' doing a lot of heavy lifting there...

Suggestions / Re: Judge Dredd TV series
« on: 20 September, 2022, 11:06:29 AM »
What Jim said. When there's something to report, you'll soon know about it.

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 20 September, 2022, 10:26:23 AM »
Sorcery! – The Seven Serpents II: The Forest of Snatta

Shamutanti Hills
Kharé part I
Kharé part II
Seven Serpents part I

The Forest of Snatta
There used to be a titanic bridge here, leading out from the Baddu-Bak ridge across the Forest of Snatta, but it has long since crumbled to ruin. I have to make the long crawl (with occasional involuntary sliding) down the hillside. Once in the trees, it isn’t too long before I meet a gaggle of the beasts that share the Forest’s name. SNATTACATS are invisible while they have their eyes open, so that when one finally breaks from the pack that are tailing me and tries to make me into a new scratching post, it isn’t too hard to bring down. The others wisely slink away, but I have a feeling they don’t go too far. I’d better not hang around! Pressing on through the forest, I soon come to a mighty pillar of worked stone – the remains of one of the ancient bridge spans.

I decide to climb up, and take advantage of what must be incredible views for clues to my mission. I’m told I must leave my pack and weapons at the base of the pillar, which I can’t say I’m too happy about, but I don’t seem to have much choice. When I finally reach the upper limits, a voice calls softly to me.  Who should it be, but my old buddy cum deadly enemy Flanker the assassin! We engage in the by-now customary fruity will-they-won’t they dialogue, and he even gives me the  possible weakness of the Water Serpent before he goes. When I climb down from the bridge – devastation! Somebody has stolen my Legendary Sword from the foot of the pillar. Thank Courga, they seem to have left everything else, but this is a mighty loss, and may well harm the greater mission…

I meet a wandering BEAR. He doesn’t seem in the mood for any will-they-won’t-they ursine banter, so I toss him a sandwich and have it away on my toes before he finishes. Then a small red snake crosses my path. It pauses to look at me, slithers away, then stops and looks back – for all the world like a dog, trying to lead me somewhere. I take out my (old, inferior) sword and follow carefully. The snake leads me through the undergrowth for a while, then disappears up into the boughs of a tree – whereupon the whole thing bursts into flame. The red snake has grown tenfold in size, and boasts fiery wings on its back – I’ve found (or rather, been found by) the Fire Serpent! A quick cast of SSS, and the Fire Serpent reluctantly warns me not to eat from the larder of Throg (whoever that is), and that the Time Serpent is waiting on an island in the middle of Lake Ilkala. So that’s the Earth, Water and Time Serpents, all waiting for me at the Lake! Should make for a fun time when I get there…! Never mind them for now, though. Luckily, I know the Fire Serpent’s weakness – I shimmy a little way up the tree and douse it with sand, just as it begins to breathe out a column of fire. His flame immediately goes out, and the sand seems to burn and burrow into the creature’s hide like acid. It drops from the tree, writhing in pain, and I close in to finish it off.

Two Serpents down, five to go.

The Klatta-Bak Steppes
After calling on Courga to save me from a patch of stranglebush that nearly put a premature end to the quest, I emerge from the Forest of Snatta onto the wilds of the Klatta-Bak Steppes – and arrive at a village of Klattamen. These are simple nomadic souls, with not much language or culture, but they’re friendly enough – I certainly feel safer here than in the Black Elf caravan! That is, until a particularly large Klattaman picks me up from where I’m sat in front of the fire and flings me through the air! The other klattamen quickly form a ring, chanting excitedly. I cast SUS to gauge how much danger I’m in; a voice tells me this is the village champion. He doesn’t bear me any ill-will, but is determined to fight me to prove his dominance. Alright then, let’s get this over w– Perhaps it’s my own overconfidence. Perhaps it’s the loss of my beloved Legendary Sword. Either way, the lowly Klattaman quickly does what two of the mighty Seven Serpents couldn’t, and smashes me down to a greasy spot on the floor.

The Klatta-Bak Steppes – Attempt II
Back to where I was, and this time I send the Klattaman yelping away to lick his wounds. Nobody seems much to mind that I bested their champion, and to show that there’s no hard feelings for having killed me earlier, the village Shaman not only heals my wounds, but gives me +1 max Stamina! The Smith isn’t too shabby either, crafting me a Longsword that goes some way to offsetting the loss of the Legendary Sword – and refusing payment, too! The more I get to know these guys, the more I like them – but it’s time to be on my way.

I meet another of the Bakland’s mystics; this chap is contemplating the world from the top of a twenty-foot pole. He invites me to join him. When I ask how, he tosses down a jewelled medallion. I’m able to use this to cast FAL, and float up to join him. We pass the time of day very pleasantly, when he’s suddenly and abruptly murdered by a giant bird (!) I’ve still got his medallion, so that’s another spell added to the repertoire, but… I’m not sure I like how I got it!

The weather changes abruptly as I walk on. The skies are clear everywhere but above me, where rain sleets down by the bucketload – I’m right in the eye of a very intense, very personal storm. It doesn’t take long for the AIR SERPENT to reveal himself, gloating from the storm clouds above. I wipe some of the smugness from him by casting SSS, and getting a clue about a ‘blood candle’ for the quest ahead. But how can I harm a twisting, ethereal thing made of air itself? Luckily, I know its weakness – harm its body while it’s in air form. And his body must somehow be bound to the serpent, because I don’t even have to search for it – a large dessicated ‘leaf’ bounces past as if summoned by my own thoughts. Tearing the snakeskin to pieces destroys the Air Serpent completely, and the skies above the Steppes become clear and blue again. That was the easiest Serpent to vanquish so far; but at the most cost. The rain of the storm has ruined all my paper items (save the spellbook) and virtually all my rations, most of them carefully hoarded since Kharé. All I have left – of fourteen rations! – are the two dried fish I cooked with the Black Elves. Hungry times ahead!

Three Serpents down, four to go.

A ruined temple comes into view. Hidden in an empty sepulchre beneath it I find a man chained to the wall with iron manacles. He claims to be Shalla, priest of Throff. Taking him at face value, I strike his chains through, and he clambers gleefully up into the sun. A comedy of errors now ensues as I try to leave the pit, because in his delirium Shalla is about to knock the trapdoor closed and trap me here! As I barge him desperately out of the way he falls into a stone column, and suddenly half the temple complex begins to collapse. Long story short, I cast YOB to summon a giant to free me from the rubble, but my health is not what it was! Still coughing up brickdust, I stumble to the old well in hopes of a drink, but it’s long since dried up. SUS tells me that it might be worth my while investigating, though… With the help of the priests’s medallion, I end up with a generous fistful of uncut gemstones. Not much I can do with them myself, but perhaps I can find someone to cut or assay them on my travels. My parting gift from Shalla is the Yellow Plague – but thankfully, Courga deigns to cure me. This is the third or fourth time I’ve contracted the plague on my travels – it’d be lovely to think this was the last!

As I turn North again, back towards the forest, my ears are filled with a strange chanting. Seven cloaked and hooded figures – the ‘Seven Spirits’ – invite me to join them. Some sixth sense tells me to keep my distance (the number seven making me uncomfortable lately for some unfathomable reason!) but I engage them in guarded conversation. When they lower their cowls, my blood freezes in my veins – serpents! And yet they all have the same markings, even though some are pale and gnarled, while others look strong and vigorous. This is the same serpent, at different points in its life – the infamous Serpent of Time, and I am woefully outclassed. The sky overhead seems to become a lidded eye, cracking open. The wind exerts a force like a hundred invisible hands, and begins to drag me inexorably toward the mound where they wait. I throw my eyes up to the stars to craft a spell – any spell! – but impossibly there are no stars! There is nothing I can do. I’ve failed, and oblivion awaits…

…or not. The Time Serpent has been toying with me. This ‘death’ was just a little taste of what I can expect when we clash again later. Er… something to look forward to, then.

There’s another Past Light tower, and a hungry WOLFHOUND lurking inside. As I enter on a lowly three stamina (thanks again, Time Serpent), he makes very short work of me. I’m forced to replay this fight many, many times! These towers seem to be powered by a blue crystal, set into the mechanism. Touching this one brings on an out-of-body experience – I’m suddenly hurtling a thousand feet into the sky, looking down on the whole of the Baklands. There’s a blue glow above the Tower I just left, and another over the Tower back in Ishtara. Now that I’ve activated my second Past Light tower, it seems that I’m tapped into a fast-travel network; I can jump between Towers at will by touching the crystals! Again, how this would have worked in the original book I have no earthly idea! By jumping between Towers and swivelling the beacons about a bit (including a third Tower, in Upper Ishtara, that I now have access to) I can shine Past Light on the remains of the Bridge across the Forest, restoring the ancient structure completely! Finally I have a way onward to Lake Ilkala.

A trio of wandering KLATTAMEN ambush me on the doorstep as I leave the Tower, and I do something I’m not very proud of. I could fairly easily scare them off, but the apparent leader has a Jewel of Gold around his neck that I really want – it will let me cast GOD, whereby characters will be compelled to help me however they can. Swallowing down a little guilt, I kill all three of the Klattamen for the sake of the jewel. May Courga forgive me, but the fate of all Analand (and maybe the world!) is at stake!

Back in the Forest of Snatta once more – but wait! The beacon of the Past Light tower has sent the forest back in time, and I’m now walking through the Vischlani Marshes that predated the forest. It’s hard going – no wonder the people of Tinpani once built that titanic bridge across it. I bump into a gaggle of Marsh Goblins, in desperate flight from something they think is hunting them. There’s some difficulty of translation, but I think that they seem to have crossed paths with the Time Serpent itself! No wonder they’re afraid. They have something that they think it wants – this something proves to be a parchment, written in an unknown glyph language. They’re happy to let me have it, and we go our separate ways; hopefully I can find someone to help me translate this. As if my thought has summoned him, I soon have a vision of the scholar Lorag, from back in Kharé. I study the message, and it’s as though Lorag is looking at it through my eyes. He comes back with a translation – it’s something to do with how to destroy the Serpent of Time. No wonder it wanted it back from the goblins…

I accidentally find my Legendary sword (Hooray!), taken by an invisible kleptomaniac [no, literally!] and then venture into a home hidden beneath a hill. Within is Fenestra, the Elven Sorceress I was (reluctantly) told to find by the Moon Serpent. It seems the Water Serpent killed her father, so she has little love for them. If I needed proof of this, it turns out that the Sun Serpent has already been fought and imprisoned in her crystal orb…! I manage to persuade her to entrust the orb to me, with a promise I will release it only to kill it; and that I’ll try and avenge her father by killing the Water Serpent too. So that’s the Sun Serpent (quite literally) in the bag, and the Forest pretty much exhausted of encounters.

I climb the restored bridge out of the forest/marsh. Exiting onto the mountain range, I finally put the Forest and the Steppes behind me. Lake Ilkala awaits, and the final three Serpents…

The Verdict
No swindlestones. Not even one round!

The fast travel mechanic of the Past Light towers really opens things out in this section. God only knows how this worked in the original book, but it’s great fun realising you can zip between parts of the map fairly quickly without another long, footsore slog, as well as being able to nip between past and future at will.

General / Re: FFT - What if? Tie 4 - Ace Garp vs Dan Dare
« on: 20 September, 2022, 10:06:39 AM »
I was fully expecting, when I read Ace Trucking Co in the UC for the first time last year, to come away thinking 'Well, perhaps you had to be there.' But no, it's great! No need for nostalgia, or to remember what CB radio was - it's just superb in its own right.

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