For this depressingly high-numbered attempt, I rolled a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 16, and a Luck of 7. I was happy about the Skill score, but that Luck score was sure to be a killer. I chose the Potion of Fortune and immediately drank both doses, raising my Initial score to 11. (As an aside, how much more playable would Fighting Fantasy be if the Skill and Stamina potions allowed for raising the initial scores as well?)
I ran through this adventure with my usual routine: a quick trip through Alasiyan (buying the sword, the eyeglass and a gas capsule), fighting the Night Ghoul, helping the desert nomads with their sandcrawler, and making my way to the castle of Kuperan. After being captured, I was seated on a griffin and flown out to become lunch for the Earth Demon. At which point I failed a Luck test, resulting in the griffin dumping me right into the Earth Demon's maw. I guess I was right about that Luck score, huh?
With a Skill of 9, a Stamina of 16, and a Luck of 10, I had a much more well-rounded character at my disposal. I chose the Potion of Strength, and went through my usual routine up to the aerial battle with Kuperan's forces. This time I made the required Luck test, and was able to save myself from falling into the Earth Demon. The battle was on!
As another Griffin flew past, I managed to hurl its rider into the Demon's mouth below (with a successful Skill test). An Orc mercenary (Kuperan's right-hand man) made a prodigious leap from the back of Kuperan's blue dragon onto my steed, and I was forced to fight him with no weapon. The battle went poorly for me, and the Orc wounded me five times before I could knock him out (reducing my Stamina to 5). I quickly took his sword, and also his boots (which took another Skill test).
Some Goblin archers took aim at my Griffin. The Orc tried to leap to safety, and I took great satisfaction in watching him drop right into the Earth Demon's mouth. My own leap, powered by the Orc's magic boots, was more successful. Safely on the ground, I took a swig from my Potion of Strength (restoring my Stamina back to 16). Now I had a choice: jump on the griffin carrying the goblin archers, or jump on the back of Kuperan's blue dragon?
I chose the archers, and was able to quickly dispatch them and take control of their Griffin. Contrary to my fears, the dragon didn't then blast me with its lightning breath, and I was able to pull my Griffin alongside it and leap onto its back.
Kuperan ordered his minions to attack, and was locked in battle with two Nomads and a Hobgoblin. The first Nomad wounded me twice, but the second I was able to kill with no trouble. (My Stamina was now 12.) The Bugbear was more problematic, as we were equal in prowess. I struck the first blow, and we traded wounds until he was on death's door. Then out of nowhere he found some sort of berserker fury, and hit me with a flurry of five wounding blows. Not even luck could save me, as the Bugbear killed me and threw my corpse to the Earth Demon. My adventure was over!
Losing five attack rounds in a row is always annoying, but aside from learning some tricky dice rolling techniques there wasn't much to be done about it. It did bring up a wrinkle in the rules though: when can you drink a potion? The rules say you can drink them anywhere. I tend to follow the same rules for provisions, which state you can use them at any time except when in battle. I still had a dose of my Potion of Strength so technically - by the letter of the rules - I should have been able to pop the cork on that bad-boy and restore my Stamina back to full. I chose not to, and will probably continue with that interpretation of the rules in the future, but I might change my mind in the future if I hit some gamebooks that are really statistically unfair.
Attempt 12 gave me exactly what I'd been looking for: Skill 12, Stamina 21 and Luck 9. Knowing that there's at least one critical Luck test in the adventure, I took the Potion of Fortune.
Insanity has been defined as taking the same actions over and over again with the same negative results, so I thought I'd switch it up this time. Rather than buying the magic sword, the glass eye and a gas capsule in Alasiyan, I bought the magic sword and three gas capsules. There are a number of options involving the gas capsules in the adventure that I hadn't been able to try, and I wanted to check them out.
The first deviation came just before I reached Kuperan's castle. With the glass eye you can avoid an ambush, but this time I didn't have it, and was shot at by three Nomads with blowpipes. I had to make three Luck tests, and I failed the second one. Poison on the dart paralysed me, and the Nomads made off with three items from my backpack. I got to choose which, so I opted for my regular sword, one provision, and a gas capsule. It was perhaps not within the spirit of the rules, but I'd already interpreted things to my disfavour in the last game, so it was time for things to go my way for once.
In Kuperan's castle, I was able to bluff the giant by pulling out my last remaining capsule and threatening to let it off. I demanded information about my quest, and although Kuperan had no idea where the Lost Cave of the Dervishes was, he told me to seek out the Hermit of the Hills. Kuperan invited me to stay the night, and I pocketed my gas capsule as his various minions went to sleep.
With the whole castle asleep, I decided to take the chance to assassinate Kuperan. Unfortunately, I tripped on a sleeping Lizard Man, who jumped up to fight me. He was little match for my unparalleled skill, but the battle woke up the rest of the monsters. Kuperan forced me to fight his Bronze Golem, and I was back on the regular path leading to my capture and the Earth Demon battle. (I'd hoped to avoid the Bronze Golem fight by taking this path, but I suspect that it might be inevitable.)
I followed the same path through that battle as I had earlier, but this time, after killing the Goblin archers, I had a gas capsule. Rather than boarding the Blue Dragon, I threw the capsule at his head. The choking dragon banked over, tipping Kuperan and his minions into the Earth Demon's maw. The battle was over, and I could finally get past this entirely-too-difficult section of the adventure.
(At this point I had scores of Skill 12, Stamina 13, and Luck 11. I had 6 gold pieces, two provisions, a sword, a backpack, a lantern, leather armour and some boots of leaping.)
The blue dragon retreated to Kuperan's castle, and I flew in the opposite direction. Eventually my Griffin grew too tired to go on, so I landed and continued on foot. To the north I could see some hills, but there was also an obvious track heading through the desert. Recalling Kuperan's advice about the Hermit of the Hills, I headed north.
As I reached the hills, a shriek alerted me to the attack of a Giant Hawk. The Hawk's talons scratched my face, but I was otherwise able to kill it with ease. (This reduced my Stamina to 11. Before this battle, I had to roll a die, and something would have happened if I'd rolled a 6. I have no idea if this would have been good or bad, but I suspect the latter.)
Further into the hills I came to a cave, and I decided to light my lantern and enter. Inside I found the Hermit of the Hills, who informed me that I'd need to pass the "Test of the Scorpion" before he'd tell me anything about the Stone of Shanhara. I agreed, and he pulled out a jar with three holes in it. One of the holes contained a scorpion, and I had to place my hand inside one. If I wasn't stung, I would pass. I placed my hand inside the third hole, was not stung, and passed the test.
|I'm just guessing that this is the hermit, but none of the paragraphs about him are near this image.|
The Hermit didn't know where the Lost Cave of Dervishes was, but he knew where to find the map leading to it: in a nest overlooking the Valley of Diamonds. It was getting dark at that point, so I decided to stay the night with the Hermit and set off in the morning.
In the morning I followed the Hermit's directions, finding a nest with three eggs inside. With luck (and a Luck test that reduced my score to 10), I was able to enter the nest without breaking the eggs, and there I found the map I was looking for woven into the nest's lining. I followed the map through some thorn bushes, and I had found the Lost Cave of the Dervishes.
|That eyebrow/beard combination is serious business.|
Guarding the cave was (of course) a Dervish, who I wasted no time in killing. On his body I found 3 gold pieces, a silver crucifix and a bag of sand. For some reason I could only take two of these items, so I chose the crucifix and the sand before entering the cave. (I guess this is a trick to catch out greedy players, but I knew at this point gold pieces would be useless to me.)
The cave was home to a pair of giant Crab Spiders, which I made short work of. Further in, I came to a place where light shone through a crack in the roof, making a pool of light on the floor. I walked around the light, possibly avoiding some sort of trap.
Soon I came to a chasm, with a rope hanging down for convenient swinging. I distrusted the rope, so instead I jumped across the chasm using my magic boots of leaping. (Is it even possible to get here without the boots?) Only a few yards beyond was the chamber that housed the Stone of Shanhara.
The stone stood on a pedestal at the centre of the room. On the far walls was a line of statues, all holding bows nocked with arrows. The floor was made up of black and white tiles.
I made my way forward, stepping only on white tiles, and made it to the stone safely. I could see that the pedestal was trapped, and would be set off if the weight upon it lessened. I was able to avoid the trap by switching the diamond for my bag of sand. With the stone in hand, I was able to safely leave the room.
When I reached the chasm again, a wall on the far side started to close, threatening to trap me inside. I quickly jumped across with my Boots of Leaping, and (with a successful Skill test) was able to slide through the closing door.
There was no time to rest, though, as a giant boulder was rolling at me from somewhere near the cave entrance. With luck I was able to avoid the boulder, and with more skill I was able to dodge it on the rebound (a Luck test and a Skill test, respectively). I had finally escaped the cave, and the legendary Stone of Shanhara was in my possession. I had won!
|Uh, did I just drop it in the desert?|
Thank fuck for that. As I had suspected, it was all fairly smooth sailing once I defeated Kuperan's forces, though it's likely that the Test of the Scorpion was a one-in-three chance of instant death, and any of those Skill or Luck tests at the end there could have done me in. The important thing is that The Dervish Stone is beaten and I can move on.
I'll do a Final Thoughts on The Dervish Stone, as well as an Exploring Titan, even though I'm pretty sure it's not set on Titan at all. After that, it's back to the main series as I tackle Talisman of Death.