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!

1 comment:

  1. Ouch... If it's any consolation that happened to me when I replayed the book for the first time in years. You're right, coming comparatively early takes the sting out a little!