Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sorcery! Attempt 3 - Book 1: The Shamutanti Hills

Today's entry is short, but it's an interesting one.  In my last entry I said something that foreshadowed the fate I'm going to write about today.  It wasn't intentional foreshadowing, just an off-the-cuff remark, but never in my wildest dreams would I have expected what happened.  Especially not from Steve Jackson.

That's enough coy teasing from me though, it's time to get into my third attempt at completing the Sorcery! epic.  This time my character had a Skill of 5, a Stamina of 16 and a Luck of 11.  This guy was a wizard, no doubt about that.  If he was going to get anywhere, I'd have to focus heavily on spells, and avoid combat at all costs.

The adventure began, and I made my way into the village of Cantopani.  I opted to check out the various items on sale in the village, as I wanted to try some of the ones I had passed over last time.  I bought Glandragor's Axe again, because returning it to its owner comes with a lot of benefits.  I had more luck with haggling this time, and I was able to talk the merchant down to a price of 4 gold pieces.

I also bought the Herbalist's potion, which turned out to be made of Blimberry Juice; drinking it would restore 3 Stamina points, and it was also apparently useful in certain spells.  The last item I purchased was the broadsword, which was finely crafted and granted me a +1 bonus to Attack Strength in battle, a handy thing to have for a wizard with a low Skill score.  After this shopping spree I had 11 gold pieces left, but I was more than happy with my choices.

On my way out of Cantopani I was ambushed by Bandits, but I stopped them with a FOF spell, creating a magical field to keep them at bay.  The spell cost me 4 Stamina (reducing my total to 12), but I probably would have lost more if I had fought them.

After that I met the old man in the tree, and did the whole bit with retrieving honey from the beehive.  The bees reduced my Stamina to 9, but I had gained an extra meal and some beeswax.

I chose the high path into the hills, and soon made camp, ate a meal, and slept (restoring my Stamina to 13).  The next day I came to a junction, with an X carved into a tree as a sign of warning, and heads mounted on poles.  I had already explored the path heading right in an earlier game, so I went left, presumably into headhunter territory.

I had barely made any progress before the ground gave way beneath me, revealing a pit trap.  I needed to Test My Luck to avoid falling in, but there was a curious option that I had never seen in a gamebook before: the option to forego the Luck test and fail it voluntarily.  It's such an odd thing that I should have taken it as a warning.  Instead I pressed gamely on, succeeded at the Luck test, and leaped free of the pit.

Right into a trap that whipped sharpened stakes into my neck, killing me instantly,  No Luck test, no praying to Libra, no takebacks, and no chance to avoid it.  I was dead: from a successful Luck test!  That's the foreshadowing I mentioned, just a random comment I made about nothing bad happening from a successful Luck test.  Well, I was wrong, wasn't I?

I've seen some dick moves in Fighting Fantasy, but this one takes the biscuit.  It seems to me like astonishingly poor design, and is especially jarring coming from Steve Jackson.  Admittedly, Jackson is King of the Dick Moves (I'm thinking specifically of Creature of Havoc here, which is full of them), but usually his stuff is clever, and very well-designed.  This one just felt cheap.

(Ian Livingstone is God-Emperer of the Dick Move on the basis of Crypt of the Sorcerer alone.)

I'll give it two positives.  One, I appreciate a good trolling, so I did have a laugh about it.  Imagining Steve chortling at his keyboard in 1983 brightened my day a little bit.  And two, it happens right near the start of the book.  If you're going to drop a trap like that, the beginning is the place to do it.  I'd have been a thousand times angrier if it had happened near the end, or in a later book.

So, it's back to the start I go.  Hopefully next week I'll be more successful.  I can't believe I've died twice in The Shamutanti Hills.  This is the easy one!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sorcery! Attempt 2 - Book 1: The Shamutanti Hills

Sometimes we make promises that we regret. We set ourselves goals that defy sanity, and stretch our capabilities beyond the breaking point. This is how I feel right now, as I restart the Sorcery! epic, starting over from the beginning.  Still, a promise is a promise, and I'll do this if it kills me.  Which it probably will do, multiple times.

First, I have to roll my new character. Once again I'm going to pay as a wizard, because that's where the fun of this series lies.  I rolled a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 17 and a Luck of 9. As usual I begin with 20 gold pieces, two provisions, a sword and a backpack. The kingdom of Analand has spared no expense to ensure the success of my mission.

(Readers less familiar with The Shamutanti Hills may want to go back and read my first play-through of the book.  I'll be skimming quickly over areas that I have already detailed there.)

And now, to begin! I passed through the Wall, and after a short journey came to the first village, Cantopani. In my last game I had asked for directions onward, but this time I decided to masquerade as a trader. The guard led me to a large hut, where the quartermaster offered me a number of goods for sale: a potion, a broadsword, a pipe, an axe, a bag of teeth, and a jewel.  I was able to inspect three of these.

I bought the axe for 7 gold pieces, and the bag of teeth for 3 gold pieces (leaving me with 10gp). (I tried to haggle, which is done by rolling two dice and trying to get a score under 7. I rolled a 7 exactly, and the quartermaster wasn't having it.) I could have investigated a third item, but I'd already spent enough money, and I thought better of it.

The axe was covered with runes, which read: "This axe was crafted in the Year of the Ox for Glandragor the Protector. Its powers may be realized only by its owner." True to the message, the axe wasn't all that useful for me, as using it would reduce my Attack Strength by 1. Rather more useful was the number 233 that was carved on it; if there's one thing I've learned about Fighting Fantasy it's that you hold on to stuff with numbers on it.

The bag contained several Death-Hound teeth, three from an Ape, four from a Goblin, two from a Snattacat and a Giant's molar. The Goblin and Giant teeth in particular were handy for spells, and I held on to the rest as well, just in case.

On my way out of the village I noticed a lot of shifty people staring from windows, right before I was ambushed by a pair of Bandits. They demanded my backpack, but I was not about to give it to them. I had stuff in there! Stuff with a number on it!

I tried to cast a LAW spell, only to discover that it only works on non-intelligent beings. One of the bandits wounded me, and from the wound and the failed spell my Stamina was reduced to 11. Not wanting to risk another spell, I fought them with my sword. They wounded me once more (reducing my Stamina to 9), but I was able to take care of them. It was no wonder they had turned to banditry: there was nothing to loot in their pockets.

After leaving Cantopani I came to a fork in the road, where I met an old man sitting in the tree. I've detailed this encounter in my previous attempt, so I'll skim over it here. He recited a cryptic rhyme, and gave me a page from a spell book.  I also retrieved some honey and beeswax from a hive behind the tree (reducing my stamina to 6 due to bee stings).

In my last game I had taken the high path into the hills, so this time I took the low path leading into a valley. I stopped by a stream to eat my honey, which restored my Stamina to 8. After journeying for a few more hours it was dusk, and I decided to make camp.

A splashing noise awoke me in the middle of the night, and I saw three thin, humanoid creatures throwing stones into the river.  Sometimes at the place where the rocks splashed a fish would fly out of the water to land at their feet. They were Elvins, and they were glowing with magic, so I decided to remain hidden. I successfully tested my Luck (reducing my score to 8), and they didn’t notice me. (I have misgivings about skipping this encounter, but the Luck test has eased my fears somewhat. Surely nothing good can come from a failed Luck test.)

I awoke the next morning, and after a short travel I came to a rope bridge that spanned the river. I ignored the bridge, and continued along the south bank. Soon I came to a ring of huts surrounding a bonfire. There was no sound to be heard, so I ventured into the village to have a look. There were three huts that I could investigate: one with a red door, one with a green door, and one with a brown door.

I entered the hut with the green door, and saw that it was filled with cushions. Strange music filled the air, but I had no pipes that I could play to accompany it, and the soothing music made me drift off to sleep.

When I awoke I was bound hand and foot, and surrounded by Elvins. They asked if I was a magician, and if so whether I would do some tricks for them.

There's something inexplicably hilarious to me about that dog.

Though I was not altogether happy about my predicament, I agreed to entertain the Elvins. I chose to cast the SIX spell (reducing my Stamina to 6), not on myself but on the Elvin Chieftain. Six illusory images of him appeared, and this caused the Elvins no end of amusement. They were suitably pleased, and they returned my gear and allowed me to leave the village.

I followed the river upstream for an hour, and found another bridge. I crossed it and headed up into the hills, where I was ambushed by Elvins throwing acorns.

This was hardly a life-or-death scenario, but I was a bit low on Stamina. I cast a WOK spell, transforming a gold piece into a shield, and used to to get by unharmed (though the spell reduced my Stamina to 5, and I was left with 9 gold pieces).

Soon I came to another village, and I decided to head to an ale-house to relax. I purchased an ale (leaving me with 8gp), and eschewed the company of an old man for a younger fellow with sharp features. I soon found out that I was conversing with the "village idiot" (Steve Jackson's words, not mine), and I quickly finished my ale and headed for the inn. At the inn I paid 5 gold for a meal and a good night's sleep (reducing my total to 3gp), and awoke very refreshed (with my Stamina restored to 13).

And now we come to the biggest bullshit decision in the book: the branching path that just gives you two numbers. No directions, no descriptions of what those paths look like, nothing. Just two numbers, and nothing else. I suppose it's a kind of gamebook minimalism, boiling the form down to its very abstract essence, but I can’t say I like it. Anyway, I chose number 226.

Not far from the village, I found a blind beggar sitting against a wall. At the exact same time a wagon driver stopped and offered me a ride. For some reason I was incapable of throwing the beggar a coin and taking the ride; I had to choose one or the other. I told the beggar to sod off, and hopped aboard the wagon. The driver was friendly, and riding with him allowed me to restore my Luck to 9. As payment I helped him collect some vegetables, and he rewarded me with enough veggies for one meal. (Blucch.)

After a time I came to a huge gate, which was ajar. I entered warily, as the gate was obviously not wrought by human hands. The path beyond passed between two caves, and I decided to have a look in the cave to the right. Sure enough, waiting inside was a Hill Giant.

The Giant was almost as strong as myself, so rather than fight it I cast a YOB spell (reducing my Stamina to 12), which transformed my giant's molar into a Magical Giant that would fight for me. He was no match for the Hill Giant, but he did wound him a few times before being killed, and I was able to finish the Hill Giant off without being wounded myself.

The Giant had 8 gold pieces, which I pocketed (raising my total to 11gp). I also pried out some of its teeth. The book doesn’t specify how many teeth the Giant has, it simply tells you to take any body parts you want.  I consulted the above illustration, which shows ten teeth. I also ate a loaf of the Giant's bread, which was too big for me to carry, and it restored my Stamina to 14.

I soon left the domain of the Giants, and came to a fork in the path. I chose the path running along the crest of the hill. Soon it was dark, and I had to make camp. No monsters attacked me in the night, and I awoke somewhat refreshed (with my Stamina restored to 16).

The next village I came to was full of miserable, maimed people, who fled at my approach. Remembering from my last game that this was a plague village, I quickly passed through.

After some more journeying, I saw another village in the distance. I was also accosted by the Minimite Jann, the sprite-like creature that insists on accompanying you. I didn’t bother wasting a spell on him, because I remembered that magic doesn’t function when he is near. I simply had to sigh, bear his presence, and make my way down to the village of Birritanti.

The village was in the middle of its "festival of the young", in which children are allowed to whatever the hell they like for a time. I noticed that the sign on the local ale-house read "Glandragor's Tavern", and decided to head inside. Sure enough, Glandragor was there to serve me, but rather than buy a drink I handed him the axe I had bought with his name carved on it. He was overjoyed to have it returned, and gave me a free ale (restoring my Stamina to 17). He also told me that I should visit the local Crystal Waterfall, and gave me a pass that would allow me entry. Following that he told me about the Svinns and the disappearance of their chieftain's daughter, left as a sacrifice to a Manticore (basically the whole endgame of this book). Finally he told me that he was well-connected in Khare, and that I should contact his friend Vik when I arrived there. (This will be given as a spell option, with the code VIK). He even offered me a sword to replace the axe, if it was my only weapon. What a guy!

After leaving Glandragor I visited the waterfall, and was able to use my pass to get in for free. Bathing in the waters would have restored all of my stats to their initial levels, but for me it was useless; I was already in tip-top shape.

From there I went to the inn, and bought a meal for 4 gold pieces (leaving me with 7).  I didn't want to pay 5gp for a room though, so I spent a pleasant night camped out in the wilderness.

The next morning I continued on until I came to a fork in the road.  I chose the eastern path leading uphill, and after travelling for some time I came to a field of pleasant-smelling black flowers.  Jann the Minimite said that it was the quickest path to the next village.  I tried to cast a SUS spell to determine if it was dangerous (reducing my Stamina to 15), but I had forgotten that Jann's presence negates my magic.

Not wanting to retrace my path, I decided to press on through the field, and soon I was frolicking merrily.  Then I got dizzy and collapsed, landing next to a skeleton.  I was breathing the poisonous aroma of the Black Lotus, and my adventure was over.

(Normally I hate gamebook deaths that result from simply choosing a path, but at least this one is suitably suspicious and gives you a couple of chances to turn back.  I think it would have benefited from showing the illustration in an earlier paragraph, thus making the skull in the bottom corner a subtle clue.)

So, I didn't even make it through the first book.  Two things happened here.  The first is that I was getting tired, a state in which I often make reckless decisions when playing gamebooks.  The second is that my curiosity, and my desire to explore every facet and path, got the better of me.  I had an inkling that the flowers were dangerous, and I'm certain that they've killed me in the past, but I pressed on anyway in the interests of exploration.  Ah well, now I know this path is a dead end, and I won't make the same mistake again.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sorcery! Attempt 1 - Book 2: Khare - Cityport of Traps

It's time to continue my trek through Steve Jackson's Sorcery! epic, with the second book: Kharé - Cityport of Traps.  Normally this is where I'd go over the rules, and the quest background, but I already did that in my entry for The Shamutanti Hills.  If you want to read about that, and if you want to refresh yourself on how well I did with that book, I'd recommend heading over there for a read. The rest of you may feel free to continue.

Now let's see what state my character was in; it's been about six months, so it's hard to remember.  I had a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 18, and a Luck of 8.  In terms of treasure I had 18 gold pieces, and two gems worth 10gp (each, or together?  I'll say together).  My only provisions were some honey.  I was carrying a sword, a backpack, a page from a spell book, some beeswax, a silver key marked '111', a vial of glue, some nose plugs, 4 small pebbles, a skull cap, and a large key marked '12'.  There was also a note reminding me that I had befriended the assassin known as Flanker, and that I should turn to paragraph 79 to find out how he can help me in Kharé. I had a look at this, and was given two paragraphs numbers to remember as places where I might run into him.  I dutifully noted them down, and started on my quest.

On approaching Kharé, I was treated to a brief background about the city.  It started as either a settlement over the only ford in the Jabaji River, or as a hideout for river pirates that kept on attracting ne'er-do-wells until it grew into a city.  The city was home to so many evildoers that everyone started setting up traps to protect themselves, and so Kharé got its name: the Cityport of Traps.  There are only two ways in and out of the city: the South Gate, which I'll be entering through, and the North Gate, which exits on the other side of the Jabaji.  Naturally, the river is impassable elsewhere, so I only have one route open to me.

At the South Gate I was prompted about the key that the Svinn Chief gave me at the close of the last adventure (it's the one marked with number '12').  I used it, and was able to let myself into the city without trouble.  The first building that I saw had barred windows, and an old man sitting inside a bare room.  I decided to enter and have a chat, only for the door to be slammed and locked behind me.  I was a prisoner!

When the old man stood to greet me I noticed that he only had one arm.  He explained that he had been a sorcerer, until his arm had been cut off by an Ogre in the Schanker Mines (the same one I killed probably).  More importantly, he explained about the spell I would need to open the North Gate, which is locked to protect the city from Bakland raiders.  Only the First Noble knows the entire spell, but there are four leading citizens who each know one line.  Unfortunately the old man didn't know the spell, and all he knew about the four citizens was that one is a scholar.  (At this point my memories of the book started to return, and they were not fond ones.  Finding those four lines is a real bitch, as I recall.)

The old man told me that the guards would release me in a day, but I didn't want to wait that long.  I cast a DOP spell to unlock the door (reducing my Stamina to 16) and walked out into the street.  The old man ran past me, and at the next junction I saw him scurry down a path to the right and disappear into a shack.  I decided to follow.

The hut he had entered had a sign that read "CHAINMAKER".  I entered, saw that the room was indeed filled with chains, and called out for the proprietor.

The chainmaker was a Svinn, one of the man-orcs from the village I had befriended in the Shamutanti Hills.  Rather than ask him about his chains, I asked about the spell to the North Gate.  He knew nothing of it, and was none to happy about being disturbed, so I made my apologies and left the hut.

Opposite was another hut, from which wafted a pleasant smell.  This time I called out, asking for permission to enter, and a voice from inside warned me to be careful of the vial of liquid perched over the door.  I avoided it before entering.  Inside was a kitchen, and the cook was a strange creature with a humanoid torso and legs, and a tentacled blob for a head: a Flayer.

I noticed a mirror and a scroll peeking out from under the Flayer's table, and decided to steal them.  I pretended that I wanted to buy some food, but at a price of 5 gold pieces it was too steep for me to continue my deception.  Instead I drew my sword, and was able to murder the poor thing without once being hit in return.  I wasn't able to read the parchment, but I took it anyway, along with the scroll and 2 gold pieces (bringing my total to 20).

Leaving the hut, I came to a junction.  I could hear a crowd to the north, and decided to take this path to the marketplace.  The place was bustling, but there were three things that were most of interest: a troupe of dancers, a dwarf with a dancing bear, and a ruffian asking for challengers to take on his champion.  I ignored them all, because this was one of the places where I was able to bump into my old mate Flanker.

I told Flanker about my dilemma, and he thought he might be able to help me.  He led me to the home of a friend of his, Lortag the Elder, all the way back past the South Gate.  (It was revealed that you can only have one line of the poem to this point, so it was nice to know that I hadn't missed anything.)

Lortag's house was well-appointed, and when he answered the door he asked me to hand over my weapons before he would let me inside.  (Flanker disappeared pretty quickly at this point so I wonder just how much of a friend this guy really is.)  I gave him my sword, and he led me into his study.  Lortag confirmed that he knew a line of the spell, and would teach it to me if I helped him with a problem.  He showed me a sequence of runes, and asked if I could determine the one that followed next.

This puzzle.  This fucking puzzle.  Honestly, to this day I have no idea what the solution is.  I know that this series was aimed at an older audience, but let's be real here: kids were playing this thing.  I'm a not-stupid 37-year-old grown-ass man, and I don't even know where to begin.  I gritted my teeth, and guessed the second rune.  Nope, wrong.  The old bastard laughed in my face, and instead of teaching me the spell he gave me an oatmeal cake that would help me pass a Luck test after I ate it (good for two attempts).  And that was that.  I just left, knowing that my quest was doomed from this point forward.  Can't I put the guy in a chokehold?  Cast a spell?  I can do telepathy, for fuck's sake!  He's only a bloody scholar!  I was tempted to suicide my character at this point, but thought better of it.  The more of Kharé I explored, the more I'd know on my second attempt.

Anyway, I'm a slave to the choices given in the book, so all I could do was slink meekly away.  I passed by some potters, weavers, and artists showing their wares, and stopped to have a look.  One fellow was displaying some multi-coloured flames, and he offered to let me have a peek inside his hut.  Inside was a large, heatless flame with a chest in the centre.  I was a bit suspicious, so I whacked on my skullcap and cast TEL (reducing my Stamina to 15).  (Oh, here I can use telepathy?!?)  The flamemaster was thinking about whether I'd fall into his trap, so I got the hell outta there.

At the next junction I went north, and at another I continued ahead into the city proper.  A strange young man named Slangg started walking with me, and after a short conversation I realised that everything he said was a lie.  I asked if he could direct me to someone who might know a line of the spell, and he told me the following: "At the junction ahead, do not not carry straight on.  Eventually, do not take a left turn."  (I'm not sure about this.  If I take it as read, I should not go straight ahead (it's a double negative) then I should go left.  But is he lying when he says he thinks that's it?  Could his whole message be misleading?  I could tie myself in knots thinking about it.)

Pondering his advice, I turned at the next junction, then I turned right at the junction after that.  (I got confused here, and I'm pretty sure I was supposed to continue straight until a left turn appeared.)  Eventually I got lost, and a woman directed me to the nearest inn: the Wayfarer's Rest.

This was the second of the places where I could meet Flanker.  He was just on his way out the door with some shady-looking characters, but he gave me 5gp from his recent gambling haul, and warned me that I should have no more than two drinks of the house ale.

I decided to have a meal before going to bed, and paid the 4gp (leaving me with 21).  A sailor sat down and offered me a drink, which I accepted (this and the meal restored my Stamina back to 18).  We got to talking about the spell to open the North Gate, and he dropped the knowledge that I would have to "kill the undead" to find one of the lines.  He offered me another ale, and we continued to talk.  Apparently, one of the people I sought had fallen out of favour with the Third Noble of Kharé (rumoured to be a Vampire), and had been cursed with living death.  He also told me about one of his friends, who had tried to talk to the god Courga in his temple, but was killed when he dared to kiss Courga's idol on the cheek.

At the offer of a third drink I declined, and retired to my room (paying another 4gp, which left me with 17).  This proved to be a terrible idea, because on awakening I found my wrist tied to a horrible deathtrap, and the innkeeper gloating over me.

This is seriously messed up, but mostly I wonder how he set all this up without waking me.  Anyway, I had a choice: pull the rope, or release it.  This was a case of carefully studying the illustration to figure out what effect either choice would have.  I released the rope, the guillotine rose, and I was able to safely escape.

Once outside the inn, I crossed the bridge over the Jabaji and came to a fork in the road.  Turning right, I came to a large arch with a bunch of people crowding around.  The people were strange: spindly, with long faces, and their eyes permanently closed.

I decided to have a look myself, and inside there was what appeared to be a pool of shimmering water.  I bent over to take a closer look, and one of the buggers gave me a kick in the bum and sent me sprawling forward.  There was no splash, though.  Instead I found myself falling down a long tunnel, until eventually I emerged in the sewers of Kharé, neck deep in shit with even more coming out of a pipe towards my head.

I decided not to duck, and copped it right in the face, causing me to vomit (and reducing my Stamina to 15).  After climbing out of the sludge I set about finding my way out of the sewer.  (This section is written very confusingly, with the choices of direction being things like "continue ahead, then first left, first right, first right, first left".  I suppose you could map it, but I found the best way to navigate was just to remember which paragraphs I hadn't visited yet).

While exploring the labyrinthine tunnels, I was attacked by a Slime Eater, a blubbery humanoid figure.  I cast a DOZ spell (reducing my Stamina to 13), which slowed it down for a time: for the first four rounds, its Skill was reduced to 4.

I was able to defeat the Slime Eater, and eventually emerge from the sewers by climbing a rope and bucket (reducing my Stamina to 11 for the ordeal).  I was near a graveyard, and remembering the sailor's advice that I would need to fight the undead, I decided to take a look.  There was a crypt, with the following inscription: "Here rests Lord Shinva - Fifth Noble of Kharé".  I decided to enter, but on the ground in front of the door there was a shimmering circle of darkness.  I cast a SUS spell (reducing my Stamina to 9), and was able to enter in safety.

I followed some stairs leading down, and emerged in a room with an ornate coffin.  A ghostly figure appeared in a nearby alcove, and advanced towards me: a Death Wraith!

The first blow with my sword proved that my weapon was useless.  The wraith wounded me once (reducing my Stamina to 7) before I could fight it off and make another plan (requiring a Luck test, which I made successfully, reducing my score to 7).  With no silver weapons at my disposal, I had but one recourse: a prayer to Libra (remember, you can pray for aid once per adventure).  Libra appeared and banished the Wraith from whence it came, and I was free to explore the tomb.

Another ghost appeared, but this time it was Shinva, Fifth Noble of Kharé.  He was quite friendly, and revealed to me a line of the spell: "One lock made out of Golem's hide'.  Huzzah!  (Not that it would help me in this game, but any foreknowledge is good for next time around.)

He also had another couplet that he was sure would help me once I reached the Baklands: "For sleeping of the sleepless ram; seek out the one they call The Sham".  Gaining this knowledge restored my Luck back to 8.

I left the tomb, and further along the road I heard a voice from a well, saying that it would tell my fortune for gold.  I threw a gold piece in, and it said that for another it would grant me two wishes.  With every gold piece I threw in, it kept making promises that the next one would grant me something awesome.  All told I wasted 6gp (reducing my total to 11) before I realised that I was being scammed.  (More to the point, I kept throwing them in to make absolutely certain that nothing good would happen.  Exploration is key!)

Further along I stopped and ate my honey on a log (bringing my Stamina back to 9), and gave a gold piece to a blind beggar (leaving me with 10).  As soon as I gave him the gold, a pair of Harpies swooped down to steal it.

I cast a DIM spell (reducing my Stamina to 7), and ate half of my oatmeal biscuit to ensure that the Luck test required to hit a Harpy would be successful.  With one Harpy confused, the beggar and I took care of the other with little trouble.

It turned out the the beggar was once the Seventh Noble of Kharé, until he went blind.  He told me one of the lines of the spell: "By Courga's grace and... someone's pride".  The old man couldn't remember the whole line, but he knew that the missing word was the name of the god of pride.  He advised that I should seek Courga's advice at his temple, and that "the left eye leads the way".  He also gave me a silver ring, marked with '130', which he said would help me in the Baklands.

Soon I came to the Temple of Courga, and wasted no time in entering.  I stepped up to the idol of Courga, and prepared to ask my question.

"On Courga's face you kiss a cross, and finish with the lips; For answers to your questions you must err not, else he spits."

I had to kiss the idol in a cross pattern, or else I would be killed.  Kissing the cheek was right out, as I remembered the sailor's story.  I started with the left eye, as the beggar had advised.  Knowing that I had to make a cross, I then went to the right eye.  I had to finish with the lips, so I went to the forehead next, and then the lips.  The only moment of doubt I had was whether I should kiss its nose, but I decided not to.  It was the right choice, and I was able to ask Courga my question.  He told me that the god of pride was his brother, Fourga, and I now had two lines of the spell.

From there I continued, and made it to the North Gate.  The guards confronted me, but I bribed them with 15gp to go away.  But alas, I only had half of the spell, and could not get through.  Nor, it seemed, could I turn around and try again, but that's a limitation of the genre I suppose.  My adventure was over.  (Still, I wonder why I can't call for Libra's aid here, if I still had a prayer available to me.  Couldn't she open the gate?  There's a Levitation spell (ZEN), but you need a jewel-studded medallion in order to cast it.  I haven't found one, so I don't have to feel cheated.)


Where did I go wrong?  The first was with Lortag the scholar, but to be honest that puzzle is entirely too hard, and I failed through no fault of my own (unless you count being terrible at puzzles).  I'm going to have to guess my way through that one.  My second failure was falsely interpreting Slangg's instructions; I'm pretty sure that if I follow them correctly I'll find the second line.

So, not too bad.  I think that, if I can get Lortag's puzzle right, I can get through on my next attempt.  First I'm going to have to go back to the beginning, though.  As I said when I read The Shamutanti Hills, my goal is to play the Sorcery! epic as one giant gamebook.  It's crazy, but I'm going to do it.