I had another crack at Temple of Terror this afternoon, and let's just say this will be a quick one. I rolled a Stamina of 19 and a Luck of 11 (not bad), but I also rolled a Skill of 8. This is yet another Ian Livingstone book where a low Skill makes it pretty much a suicide mission.
After choosing my spells (Create Water, Open Door, Read Symbols and Fire), I decided to take the overland route again. I didn't relish facing the Giant Sandworm with such a low Skill, and I knew that fight was unavoidable on the path via Port Blacksand.
Heading south, I ignored the encounter with the Dark Elves, as well as the trapped amulet left by Malbordus. The Dark Elves have a bow and some arrows, but I figured I could go without them. That night I camped near some boulders, and one a die roll I scored a 1, meaning I was attacked by a Cave Troll (Skill 8, Stamina 7). I started well, dropping it down to 1 Stamina, but then it hit me a few times in a row. My Stamina was 13 by the end of the fight.
Following that I was attacked by a Harpy (Skill 8, Stamina 5), which further dropped my Stamina to 11. Then I was picked up by a Giant Eagle sent by Yaztromo, and attacked by a Pterodactyl. This is where I discovered that I really should have gone for that bow (or taken a Magic Arrow spell): not only does it wound the Pterodactyl, but it also drops its Skill by a point. As it is, I had to run the Eagle vs. Pterodactyl fight at a 2 Skill disadvantage. Nevertheless, I managed to scrape through by using a lot of Luck to increase the Eagle's damage. I'm not sure if that's strictly following the rules, but it's not like Ian Livingstone plays fair so I feel perfectly justified. My Luck by the end had been reduced to 9.
Further south I found a mirror buried in the sand (and ignored the clay pot with the poison gas inside). After that, I came to my nemesis from the last game: the Sand Snapper. This creature has two tentacles, each one with Skill and Stamina of 7. If at any point the Snapper hits twice in a row, it's an instant death. I was keen to get this fight over with as quickly as possible, so I burned some Luck here as well. It hit me twice, but this time I managed to kill it. Much to my disgust, the bite it had given me before the fight started resulted in me losing a further 4 Stamina, and 1 Skill. I ate a provision, and at the end of this whole ordeal my Stamina was at 7, and my Skill at 7.
Continuing on, I saw a large lizard-like creature approaching, with large yellow eyes. It was a Basilisk, but I had the perfect defense: a mirror to reflect its deadly gaze. I killed the beast and moved on. (It's odd to see a Basilisk that kills with its gaze, rather than turns its victims to stone. Killing is more mythologically accurate, as far as I'm aware, but usually these kinds of books take their lead from Dungeons & Dragons).
I found some footprints and decided to follow them, but they only led to a dead body with a horrified expression. I figure this guy got killed by the Basilisk, and with little else to do I took his water canteen and continued. Past that I came the tent of the nomad merchant Abjul, who I'd met in my first attempt at the book; I'd finally reached the point where the paths converged. With a full coin purse, I bought everything Abjul had to offer.
I needn't have bothered, because the next encounter was with the Giant Sandworm. With Skill 10 and Stamina 20, it made very short work of me. I didn't even get a single hit in.
Once again I didn't make it far, but I did manage to fully explore the overland path. Having done so, I think I'm going to ignore it from now on. First off, it doesn't get around the Giant Sandworm; that one seems to be unavoidable. Secondly, it has two very deadly battles in addition to the Sandworm: the Sand Snapper and the Giant Eagle/Pterodactyl aerial duel. Finally, it only has two items to pick up (the bow and the mirror), and both of them are already useful by the time the Sandworm is reached: if I know my Ian Livingstone design sensibilities, they won't be used at all later in the book. From now on, I'm going to persist with the Port Blacksand path, until such time as it is proven to be the wrong one.