Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sorcery! Attempt 6 - Book 2: Kharé - Cityport of Traps

After numerous failed attempts at The Shamutanti Hills, I've finally returned to the second book in the series.  Kharé - Cityport of Traps is definitely more difficult than its predecessor, but I feel like I was close to finding the correct path last time I played it.  With a bit of luck I'll be able to knock it off this time around.

Here are my character's stats from the end of the first book:

LUCK: 11

TREASURE: 10 gold pieces

EQUIPMENT: Sword, Pipe, Blimberry Juice (restores 3 Stamina), Beeswax, Key (54), Bomba Fruit (doubles Stamina from eating), Ragnar's Armband of Swordmastery (+2 Attack Strength when using a sword), Skullcap, Key (12)

In addition to the stats and items noted above, I will also be able to call on help from the assassin Flanker, and a personage of Kharé named Vik.  Flanker shows up in a couple of different places, and you have to keep an eye out for specific page numbers to know when he's around (as with the spells in the game, you're not allowed to write these numbers down; you have to memorise them).  I'm not sure how Vik helps in the book, but his name is apparently given as a spell option when his aid is available.  I'll definitely be on the lookout for it.

Alright then, with that out of the way let's get going.

I started the adventure by sneaking into Kharé through the South Gate, using the key that the Svinn Chief had given me.  Right away I passed by a building with barred windows, and an old man sitting inside.  I tried to ignore it and continue on, but some guards sneaked up on me, threw me inside and locked the door.  I was trapped.  (It sucks that you can't avoid being thrown in prison, but I suppose that Steve Jackson had to give you his exposition somehow.  It's just a shame he couldn't think of a way to do it for players smart enough to avoid imprisonment.)

The old man in the prison told me all about the four-part rhyme I would need to get through the North Gate.  (I still think it would be easier to leave the city and cross the Jabaji River somewhere else. How rough can it be?)  Rather than waste a spell escaping, I decided to wait for the guards to return.  While I was waiting I shared a meal with the old geezer (leaving me with no provisions left).  I still didn't trust him, though, so I stayed up all night watching my gear (which reduced my Stamina to 14).  In the morning the guards came, and we were both released.

We soon came to a junction with three paths.  The old man turned right, and I decided to turn left.  Some guards were approaching me, so I ducked into a nearby building.  This was either a great decision or a terrible one, because inside the hut were three Black Elves puffing a hookah full of smoking weed.

The temptation to partake of their weed was strong, but I figured that no good could come of it.  Instead I tried to get some information out of them.  They gave a vague indication that a scholar lived down the road somewhere, but that was all I could get out of them, so I left.

Further down the road I passed a small pond, which contained a silver fish and a single gold piece.  The fish appeared to be trying to speak to me.  I was suspicious, so I cast a HOW spell (reducing my Stamina to 12).  The spell informed me that despite its nasty bite the fish was nothing to be afraid of, so I leaned closer to listen.  It was definitely trying to communicate something, but the water and bubbles obscured its message; it sounded something like "Bwrthhrs", which wasn't very helpful.

Incensed by the fish's inability to convey its message to me, I reached into its pond to take the gold coin.  The fish bit me (reducing my Stamina to 11), but with a successful Luck test I was able to snatch the coin.  (My Luck had been reduced to 10, but I now had 11 gold pieces.)

At a fork in the road there was a hut, with a horse tied up outside it.  I approached the horse and tried to climb on its back.  As I mounted it the horse bolted, and I clung to its back to see where it would take me.  (Horses are the devil, and I can't believe I left my fate up to the whims of one of those vile creatures.)  It galloped back past the South Gate, but a lizard caused it to rear and throw me off.  I was unhurt, but the horse had ran off while I was recovering.  (This actually worked in my favour.  I had taken a different path the first junction, but now I was back in familiar territory, and knew where to go to find the first line of the poem I needed.)

I found myself on a road with a hut on either side.  I investigated the hut on the left, and found that it was a Chainmaker's shop.  I decided to have a look around, which required some delicacy if I was going to do so without rattling chains and drawing the Chainmaker's attention.  I succeeded at the requisite Luck test (reducing my score to 9) and found 3 gold pieces (raising my total to 14).

I tried to continue my search, but this time my Luck test failed (reducing my score to 8).  The Chainmaker appeared and attacked me, so there was only one thing to do: I killed him and looted his shop.  Theft and murder aren't always the right way to go about things, but in this case I was well rewarded for my behaviour: I found 10 gold pieces (raising my total to 24) and a magical chain.  This chain is pretty great; once an opponent is reduced to 3 Stamina or less, you can use it to wrap around the enemy so you can score an automatic kill.  The only catch is that the chain is hard to unlock, and any time you use it you need to succeed at two Luck test to release the catch.  If you fail, the chain is locked permanently and you have to leave it behind.  It's a cool item, and sounds like just the thing for winning those battles that go right down to the wire.

Once outside I crossed the street and entered the other hut; perhaps a spot of murder would be useful here as well?  Before going inside I announced myself, and the person inside warned me about the vial of liquid perched over the door.  I avoided the trap and entered.  Inside was a kitchen, with a squid-headed humanoid known as a Flayer cooking up a storm.

Having spied an interesting box under the Flayer's table, I cast a DIM spell on it (reducing my Stamina to 9), and stole the box.  Inside the box was a mirror, a parchment scroll, and 2 gold pieces (raising my total to 26).

I left the Flayer's house and continued, eventually coming to a crowded market.  There I met my friend Flanker, who directed me to the house of a scholar friend of his who he thought might know a line of the poem.  Flanker left, and I knocked on the door of Lortag the Elder.

Lortag was a friendly chap, but before he would tell me the line he wanted me to help him solve a puzzle.  (For reference to the puzzle, and my genuine hatred for it, check my first post on this book.)  With no idea of how to solve it I took a guess, and picked the third rune.  Success!  (At this point the book explains the answer: the runes represent spots on a gambling die, and the correct rune is the missing one.  I'd have less problem with this if Lortag hadn't described the runes as a sequence; they're not presented as such, and their arrangement doesn't match any of my dice.  I still hate this puzzle, but I'm happy enough to have guessed correctly.)

Lortag taught me a line of the spell: "So tumblers two sealed deep inside."  He also gave me a green wig (useful for language-based spells), and my Luck was restored to 11.

Leaving Lortag's house behind, I came to an area where tradesmen where showing their wares.  I investigated an artist with no hands, who was exhibiting portraits of some of the nobles of Kharé.  He invited me into his tent to see his magic paintbrush, and like a twit I followed him.  Inside there was a paintbrush that was working by itself, and it was painting a picture of me!

I didn't trust this business at all, so I decided to stop the brush from finishing its work.  This resulted in an absurd duel, where I tried to hack it out of the air with my sword before it could complete the portrait.  (I had to kill it in five rounds, which I barely managed).  I left the hut, having destroyed the livelihood of a poor, no-handed artist.

A few twists and turns later, I encountered a fellow named Slangg.  Everything he said was a lie, so I asked him for directions to someone who would know the next line of the spell.  He said: "At the next junction ahead, do not not carry straight on.  Eventually do not take a left turn."  Following his instructions, I turned right rather than carrying straight on, then turned left at the next junction until I found a chapel.

The people were congregated to listen to a priest, who was asking if anyone would take the test of Slangg, the God of Malice.  Anyone who answered correctly would be granted a wish, while anyone answering incorrectly wold have to renounce their god and worship Slangg.

I accepted the challenge, and was asked the following question: "In Bigfoot's family are 6 sons.  He gives 5 gold pieces to his second-youngest son, 13 gold pieces to his eldest and 9 to the fourth-youngest.  How much gold did he have in all?"  The pattern was that of odd numbers descending, and so the total number of coins was 48.  Surprised that I had been trained in mathematics, the priest gave me another line of the spell: "I bid you, portals, open wide".  (To be honest you don't need this line to find the answer to the North Gate puzzle, but I suppose the magic won't work without it.  I also wonder, though, why I didn't ask for a more substantial wish, something like "I wish I had the Crown of Kings already."  I guess the priest can only grant wishes that are within his own power.)

(The last encounter also raises the question: was the lying man really Slangg, the God of Malice?  Given that everything he says is a lie, I would say no.  He tells you his name is Slangg, so he's definitely not Slangg.  Unless he is the God of Malice, and he's been giving a false name all this time...)

Night was falling, so I hastened to an inn.  There I met Flanker again, who gave me 5 gold pieces from his gambling winnings (raising my total to 31).  He also warned me not to have more then two mugs of ale, before he departed with some friends for some obvious mischief.

I paid 4 gold pieces for a meal.  An old sailor sat down with me and offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted.  I also accepted a second drink from him (the food and drink combined raised my Stamina to 14).  He was a gregarious fellow, and told me that the Third Noble of Khare knew a line of the spell, but had been cursed with living death.  He also warned me against kissing the cheek of the god Courga's idol in his temple.  I followed Flanker's advice and refused a third drink, and retired to bed (paying another 4 gold pieces for the privilege, which reduced my total to 23).

I awoke to a genuine predicament - the innkeeper had tied a string to my wrist, which was connected to an elaborate sequence of pulleys, and a guillotine that hovered over my head.  One wrong move, and I would have been beheaded.  I could pull the string, or let it go.  I let it go, and the guillotine rose safely away from my neck.  (Normally solving this puzzle involves careful study of the accompanying illustration, but luckily for me I remembered the solution from last time.  It also seems to me that it would be easy enough for the hero to move out of the path of the guillotine before making his decision, but that kind of thinking does ruin puzzles like this. Regardless, the rest restored my Stamina to 16.)

Leaving the inn, I came to a fork in the road and went left.  The area that I was passing through was full of spindly folk who walked around with their eyes closed.  They seemed able to see well enough, and a gang of youths spotted me and started talking in sinister tones.

The whole scenario made me uneasy, so I ducked down a sidestreet.  The young men followed, and I made a headlong flight to escape.  I took several turns, but eventually ended up at a dead end, and was forced to fight.  I tried casting a HOW spell (reducing my Stamina to 12), but it seemed that there was no safe course of action to take.  The young men were Red-Eyes, and they blasted my wrist with a beam of fire from their eyes (reducing my Stamina to 10).  Thus disarmed, I was taken away by the Red-Eyes, stripped of my gear, and thrown into jail.

In the cell with me was an Elvin, who had been held captive here for months.  I asked why he hadn't used his magic to escape, and he told me that there was a Scramble Spell neutralizing all magic within the cell.  I had no intention of staying put, but with no magic I didn't have many options.  I tried a key I had found earlier (marked with the number 54), but it did no good.  I had no choice: I would have to call on the goddess Libra.

Libra unlocked the door, and the Elvin and I were able to escape.  (Luckily I was able to retrieve all of my gear.)  We parted ways, but the Elvin was so pleased that he cast a spell that restored my Luck to its initial level.

Further along the street a market was being set up, and I decided to take a look.  There were a number of items on offer, and I bought them all: a tinderbox, some snake-bite antidote, a broadsword, and a bow with a quiver of silver arrows.  I also bought two meals, and after all of this I was left with a mere 3 gold pieces.  The only item with special capabilities was the broadsword: if used in battle it would inflict 3 points of damage instead of the usual 2, but at the cost of a -1 Attack Strength penalty.  Nice for finishing off weaker foes quickly.

I left the market, and came to a graveyard with a large crypt.  The inscription on the crypt indicated that Lord Shinva, the Fifth Lord of Khare, was buried here, so I decided to have a look.  There was a suspicious black circle before the crypt's entrance, so I cast a HOW spell (reducing my Stamina to 8). The spell informed me that there was no safe way forward; indeed, it seemed the only safe path was for me to turn around.  I was determined to enter, though, so I readied my bow and silver arrows (suspecting undead, you see) and jumped over the black circle.

I descended some stairs, and came to a tomb with a single coffin.  A ghostly figure was guarding the coffin: a Death Wraith.  I loosed a silver arrow at it, and struck it dead centre (by rolling under my Skill on two dice).  Luckily, I had chosen the only weapon capable of harming the creature.  The Death Wraith had a Stamina of 8, and I had ten arrows; I would have to hit it four times to kill it.  (This combat is resolved as normal, except that you have to make a successful Skill check for every hit in addition to winning the Attack Round).  The Death Wraith hit me twice (reducing my Stamina to 4) but I was eventually able to destroy it.

I exhausted after the battle, so I rested and ate.  I also ate my Bomba Fruit, which doubled the healing value of my meal (restoring my Stamina to 8).  After I finished eating, the ghost of Lord Shinva appeared to thank me for breaking his curse.  He also told me a line of the spell: "One lock made out of Golem's hide".  In addition, he gave me another clue, that he claimed would help me in the lands beyond Khare: "For sleeping of the sleepless ram, seek the one they call The Sham".  It was rather cryptic, but help rarely comes in the form of straightforward answers when you're on a mythic quest.

I left the crypt and continued.  A talking well tried to convince me to throw some gold into it, but I ignored it.  Soon I could see the North Gate in the distance; I was near my goal, but I only had three lines of the spell.

As I was resting on an old stump, a blind beggar asked me for alms.  I tossed him a gold piece (leaving me with 2), but a pair of Harpies swooped down to steal it from him.  I decided to help the old beggar, and cast a DIM spell to confuse them (leaving me with 6 Stamina).  I had to aim the spell, which required a successful Luck test (reducing my Luck to 10).  I hit one of the Harpies, taking it out of the fight, and the beggar and I polished off the other one.

It turned out that the beggar was once the Seventh Noble of Khare, and he knew a line of the spell: "By Courga's grace and someone's pride".  The old man's memory was failing, and he could no longer remember the name of the god of pride.  He recommended that I visit Courga's temple, to ask the answer from the god's idol.  He also gave me a silver ring that would protect me from serpents, marked with the number '130'.

The Shrine of Courga was close by, and I wasted no time in entering.  I stepped up to his idol.  A sign instructed supplicants to kiss the shape of a cross on the idol's face, finishing with the lips.  I kissed it on the left eye, the right eye, the forehead and the lips.  Though I was not of Courga's faith, the idol said that I could ask one question of it.  I asked the name of the God of Pride, learning that it was Fourga.

Now armed with all four lines of the spell, I made my way to the North Gate.  I still had to get past the guards, however, and I had no gold to bribe them with.  I would need to use a spell to get rid of them.  None of the spells on offer seemed all that useful, but out of desperation I chose RAP (reducing my Stamina to 5).  It seemed that this was the correct option; the spell allowed me to speak in their native Crolian tongue.  Convinced that I hailed from Mauristatia, they were happy to allow me to approach the gate.

I recited the spell:

So tumblers two sealed deep inside,
one lock made out of Golem's hide.
By Courga's grace, and Fourga's pride,
I bid you portals, open wide!

Success! I had made it through, and the deadly traps of Khare lay behind me.  Before me, however, were the deadly plains of the Baklands.  My journey had been perilous, but  had the feeling that things were about to get a whole lot worse.

Well, that was a bit of luck, wasn't it?  I was right in my thoughts after my last failed attempt at this book: if I could guess Lortag's puzzle, I'd be fine.  I did guess it (with a 1-in-3 chance), and now I'm ready to move in to The Seven Serpents.  I have very few memories of this book, so I'll be mostly in the dark.  Something about a witch, and a lake?  That's seriously all I remember.

Next: You'll have to wait a little bit for me to tackle The Seven Serpents though.  First I'll be looking at Warlock Magazine #2, and the second half of the revised version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sorcery! Attempt 6 - Book 1: The Shamutanti Hills

Despite multiple failures and some very cheap tactics on the part of writer Steve Jackson, I have returned to once more tackle the Sorcery! epic.  More specifically, I'm tackling the first book, which has proven surprisingly difficult.  Or I have proven surprisingly inept.  One of the two.

My character for Attempt 6 had a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 16 and a Luck of 10.  With scores like those, I had no excuse for failure.

I'll skim over the early stages here, because I've covered them extensively in earlier posts.  All you need to know is that I bought Glandragor's Axe, the pipes and the Blimberry Juice at the village, was given a spellbook page by the old man, and took some honey and beeswax from a beehive.

At the first junction I headed down into the valley (as there were some things I wanted to investigate in the Elvin village).  I ate a meal along the way, but pushed on through the night (leaving me with 14 Stamina), but eventually I came to the village, a ring of tents surrounding a bonfire.  There were three huts to investigate: red, green and brown.  I had already been inside the green hut in an earlier adventure, so this time I chose the red hut.

There were two boxes on a table, and no self-respecting adventurer can resist opening unattended boxes.  I tried the box on the left, but when I opened it smoke poured forth to form a thin, elf-like face.  "Stranger," it said, "you tamper with forces you know nothing of. I am aware of your quest. You cannot succeed!"

There was no way that this was good news.  Suspecting some sort of magical assault, I cast a MAG spell to protect myself (reducing my Stamina to 12).  My instincts were correct, and "Mananka" (as it called itself) was banished back into its box.

I'm fully aware that, when faced with two boxes in FF, one will be good and one will be bad.  I had already opened the bad one, so I had no hesitation in opening the other.  I was half right: inside was a key, and 5 gold pieces, but there was also a scorpion.  I grabbed for the key, and had to successfully Test My Luck to avoid being stung.  I made the roll (reducing my Luck to 9), and was able to take the key without being hurt.  The key was stamped with the number 54; I placed it in my pouch with satisfaction.  I could have tried to take the coins as well, one at a time, but the risk wasn't worth the reward.  I was happy enough with the key, so I left the village.

Soon I came to a bridge. but as I crossed a pair of Elvins started pelting me with acorns.  I didn't bother to protect myself; they were only acorns after all.  Nevertheless, the acorns were quite painful, and caused me to lose 3 Stamina (leaving me with 9).

The next village was Kristatanti, where I went to the ale-house and had a drink with an old man (which left me with 8 gold pieces).  After some good advice, he gave me a Bomba Fruit, and restored my Luck back to 10.  I bid the fellow goodnight and went to the inn, where 5 gold pieces bought me a meal and a bed for the night (restoring my Stamina to 16).

In the morning I followed the path leading past the house of Alianna, the witch.  Rescuing her from the cage proved simpler than usual, because I had found the correct key in the Elvin village (it makes sense, as the little buggers were the ones who locked her up).  Normally I would take the reward of magic items from her, but this time I opted to enhance my combat prowess.  She rewarded me with Ragnar's Armband of Swordmastery, which would grant me a +2 bonus to Attack Strength when using a sword.  She also gave me 7 gold pieces, raising my total to 10.

Not one to ruin her reputation, however, Alianna sicced a Wood Golem on me.  I wanted to try out my new armband, so I fought it rather than cast a spell.  The Golem hit me once (reducing my Stamina to 14), but with me newfound skill I was able to quickly reduce my foe to kindling.

I continued on to Dhumpus, where I ignored the villagers who wanted me to abandon my sword.  I bought  a skullcap at a local market (leaving me with 6gp) and continued on. I decided to stay at the inn, which cost me 3gp (leaving me with 3), and restored my Stamina back to 16.

Resting at the inn was a good move, because it opened up a path that I hadn't been shown before.  I could still take the path towards the plague village, but instead I took the new path into the woods.  Later I came to a bridge between two hills.  When I tried to cross it, an old man stepped out and confronted me.

The man's name was Vancass, and in the form of a rhyme he demanded that I answer two questions before he would let me pass.  I decided to try my luck.  His first question was easy: what is the name of the witch I had encountered earlier?  I answered Alianna, which was of course correct.  The next question asked me to name three villages I had passed through, in the order I came to them.  Luckily I had been mapping, so I had all of their names written down.  He allowed me to pass and also told me another rhyme, that warned me against turning right in the Manticore's maze.  (I could have used this advice in my last game...)

Further on at the next village is where Jann the Minimite hooked up with me, and I returned Glandragor's Axe to its owner.  One quick trip to the Crystal Waterfall, and all of my scores were back to their initial levels.

I camped outside for the night before continuing on (and lost Stamina due to not eating, reducing my score to 13), turning to the west at the next junction.  I was ambushed by the assassin Flanker, quickly beat him, and spared his life to gain his help in the next book.  Then I passed the hut with the old witch, and got her to get rid of Jann for me.

I soon came to the Svinn village, where the villagers held me captive and forced me in to rescuing the chieftain's daughter from the Manticore in some nearby caves.  Now that I knew not to take any right turns, this was simple.  I just kept turning left, found the chieftain's daughter, and met the Manticore in battle.  One FOF spell to block its tail, one HOT spell to burn it with fire, and one WAL spell to keep it contained, and I was able to escape.  Finally, I had completed The Shamutanti Hills.

I haven't quite explored everything in this book yet, but I'm getting there.  There's another tent in the Elvin village, a cave in the realm of the Giants, the forest in the area near Vancass's bridge...  I'm sure there are other things I've forgotten about.  But I feel like I've sussed out the best path through this book.  In the future I'll be glossing over it quickly, unless I discover something new.  It's time to pick up the pace so that I can get through the second book.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sorcery! Attempts 4 & 5 - Book 1: The Shamutanti Hills

The Shamutanti Hills is easy.  That's the conventional wisdom; it's the warm-up adventure before things really kick off in the second book.  I've always believed it to be the case, but it's not necessarily true.  While it doesn't have a narrow path to victory, or any particularly difficult encounters, what I'm finding is that there are plenty of ways to die in this book.  Plenty.


My scores for this attempt were Skill 8, Stamina 16, Luck 8; a perfectly serviceable adventurer.  Taking a look at my map, I decided that I would investigate a previously unexplored path: the bridge crossing the river just before the Elvin village.  If I was going to keep failing this book, the very least I could do was figure out the path that gets me the best stuff.

And so I set out, into the Shamutanti Hills and the village of Cantopani.  I made my way to the merchant (as I'm going to do in every game, because he has a lot of cool stuff), and chose a couple of items I had yet to investigate: the pipe, and the jewel.  The jewel cost a whopping 10 gold pieces, which I paid begrudgingly, but it was a swindle; it turned out that it was a magical ice jewel, and would melt in my backpack.  Next I chose the pipe, the cost of which was determined by rolling one die.  I paid 2gp for it, but on further investigation it had no special properties.  It's useful for a certain spell, though, so I was happy to have it.

Finally I chose Glandragor's Axe.  As I've mentioned before, it's too good to pass up, and I'm dead keen to find out how Glandragor's friend will help me in book 2.  I rolled a total of 8 while trying to haggle for it, though, and it ended up costing me the last of my gold.

I was ambushed by bandits on the way out of Cantopani (they only attack you if you've bought something from the merchant, it seems). Armed with my pipe, I cast a JIG spell (reducing my Stamina to 15) and watched in satisfaction as they danced away.

Once outside the village, I encountered the old man with the spell book page, and took some honey and beeswax from the nearby hive (reducing my Stamina to 13 due to beestings).  From there I ventured down into the valley, and found a place to rest (eating some provisions to restore my Stamina to 15).

Halfway through the night I was awakened by Elvins splashing in the river.  In an earlier game I had hidden from them, but this time I stood up and announced my presence.  One of them floated over to investigate, and I greeted him cheerfully. Seeing that I was friendly, he invited me to join his companions, which I did. I was expecting some sort of mischief, but while the Elvins were fond of pranks they were quite harmless so long as I kept my temper.  We parted ways on friendly terms.  (This looks like an encounter I can safely skip; the Elvins didn't give me anything, or impart any useful information. Sleeping through the night is of greater benefit.)

I soon came to the aforementioned bridge, and crossed to the far side of the river. I came to a field of long grass, and decided to stop and eat. A flock of nearby woodgulls were startled by something and took to the air, but I ignored them and kept on eating.  But as I bit into my bread, I was hit in the leg by a poisoned dart. I had been ambushed by a Headhunter, and my adventure was over.

So what did I do wrong? I must admit to some complacency. I knew something was going to attack me when those woodgulls flew off, but I wasn't expecting an instant death. I just wanted to know what it was, and I assumed that I'd be able to find a way out of whatever predicament befell me.  I was wrong, I suppose.

It also wasn't clear that I was in Headhunter territory.  If you enter from the mountain path there's obvious foreshadowing, but there are no warnings when you cross the bridge.  I also thought there was a major mapping discrepancy here, to the point where I backtracked a bit just to double-check that I hadn't jumped to the wrong paragraph. The problem was with my own map; there are no directions indicated at the first junction, and I had drawn them the wrong way around. It worked well enough once I rearranged things.

So yeah, I need to stop exploring and just get on with winning the damn book.  If I'm having trouble with this one, there's little hope for Khare, let alone The Crown of Kings.



The next hapless adventurer to be fed into the Kakhabad meatgrinder had Skill 5, Stamina 21 and Luck 7.  This fellow was probably more suited to be an exploratory probe than a legendary warrior, but I figured I'd still give it a fair go: magic can be a great equaliser in this series, after all.

In the first village, now armed with a knowledge of every item on sale, I bought Glandragor's Axe, the pipe, and the Blimberry Potion.  I considered the broadsword for the combat bonus, but decided to go with spell components instead.  All up it cost me 10 gold pieces, which was a fair bargain (I did some good haggling).

So, past the bandits (dealt with using the JIG spell), the old man, and the beehive (with my Stamina reduced to 17 overall).  I chose the path up into the hills.

As night fell I decided to continue walking rather than camp, just to see if anything different happened. It's different, though not helpful: my Stamina was reduced to 15 due to lack of sleep, and if my die roll had been lower I would have encountered a wandering monster.  I also realised in the morning that I hadn't eaten, and so lost even more Stamina (leaving me with 12).  It was an inauspicious beginning.  (I'm not quite sure why I can't just sit and eat now, though.)

Soon I came to the junction with the heads on poles, and the warning scratched into a tree.  I'm aware that I had said I would stop with the needless exploring, but I couldn't help myself. I chose the path leading into Headhunter territory, and towards the unfair pit trap that I had so vehemently decried in my last post.

(This is where the path links with the one over the bridge near the Elvins. If I'd continued on instead of stopping to eat, I would have been on the same track as in this attempt.)

When I reached said pit trap, I voluntarily failed the Luck test and allowed myself to fall in. I wasn't injured by the three-metre fall, but I was knocked unconscious. When I awoke, I was bound hand and foot, and surrounded by Headhunters.  I tried casting a HOT spell, but I had forgotten that I could only cast spells with my hands free (and my Stamina was reduced to 8 for my forgetfulness)

The Headhunters took me to their village, and started boiling water over a fire.  With the implications clear, and no other means of escape, I prayed to the goddess Libra. It took a while, but eventually Libra replied with a timely downpour that doused the fire and loosened my bonds.  The Headhunters scattered, and I escaped into the woods after collecting my all-important stuff.

After a panicked flight I realised that I was lost, and I had to throw a die to determine which path I had taken.  I rolled a 1, and emerged near the Schanker Mines, where a number of goblins were milling about in front of a cave.

Despite my low Stamina, I decided to sneak into the cave and see what I could find. The first path took me to a fight with a blind goblin, who wounded me once before I could kill him (leaving me with 6 Stamina; I also used a Luck point to kill him a bit faster).  I looted a key (silver, with the number 111) from his corpse. The door beyond led into pitch darkness, and a SUS spell told me that it was dangerous and I should turn back (reducing my Stamina to 4).  The other path led to a room with an Ogre (I had to charge the door down to get in, further reducing my Stamina to 3).  In my current state I didn't fancy tackling an Ogre, so I retreated from the mines completely. (I had to make a Luck test to avoid Goblins on the way out, but I was successful, leaving me with a Luck of 5.)

Much to my relief I came to a village, and went to the ale-house to relax (buying an ale for 1gp, which left me with 9). A conversation with an old man revealed to me that one path on from the village led to a realm of giants, and another past the home of the witch Alianna. He also gave me a Bomba Fruit, which when eaten would double any Stamina gained from eating a meal. My luck was restored to 7 for meeting with this guy, and I went happily from there to the inn. At the inn I paid the 5gp for some food and a room (leaving me with 4gp); I needed a Stamina boost, and the combination of a meal and some sleep restored my Stamina to 11.

Heading out of the village, I chose the path leading past Alianna's house. I investigated her house, and found her locked inside a cage. I decided to help her escape. The key that I had found on the blind goblin didn't work, so I used a DOP spell to unlock the cage (reducing my Stamina to 9).  (I've never been able to find the right key, but given her story about being locked up by Elvins I suspect it's on one of the tents in their village).

Alianna offered me a reward, and I had to choose between a magical item or increasing my combat prowess. I chose the item, and she gave me 7 gold pieces, a vial of glue, some nose-plugs and four small pebbles.  (Pebbles?  Why don't I have these on me at all times? They can't be that hard to find.)

Alianna then attacked me with a Wood Golem (claiming that she doesn't give up her possessions without a fight). I hit it with a HOT spell (reducing my Stamina to 5), which torched the Golem and sent Alianna scurrying to put it out before it burned down her house.

I left her to it, and moved on to the next village, Dhumpus. When I tried to talk to the villagers they refused unless I left my sword behind. There was no chance of that, so I moved on. At a merchant's hut I found several items for sale: a sword, a skullcap, and some provisions. I bought the skullcap for 4gp (leaving me with 7), and left the rest.  At the inn I paid 3gp for a meal (leaving me with 4gp, and restoring my Stamina to 8), but I decided not to pay for a room.  I made camp outside of the village, and again a good dice roll meant that I wasn't attacked my wandering monsters. The rest restored my Stamina to 10.

Next was the plague-infested village that I'd previously avoided.  This time I knocked on the door of one of the huts, and tried to talk to the inhabitants.  I cast a DOC spell, and aided by my Blimberry Juice I was able to cure them (while reducing my Stamina to 9).  They warned me about the Black Lotus flowers, but there was no reward otherwise. I suppose I should be happy to have done a good deed, but I'd really rather have some treasure.

I came to another village, where I was soon accosted by Jann the irritating Minimite. I told him to nick off, but he insisted on following me anyway. In Birritanti I visited Glandragor's Tavern and returned his axe, garnering all sorts of bonuses: +2 Stamina, +3 Luck, a free pass to the waterfall, some knowledge of the book's final encounter with the manticore, and the promised help of VIK in the next book.  Now there's a guy who knows how to reward a good samaritan.  I visited the waterfall, restored all of stats back to their initial levels, and camped safely out in the wilderness (and eating a meal, which left me with 1 remaining).

Heading out of the village, I chose the path downhill, and was soon ambushed by the assassin known as Flanker. I tried to cast a WOK spell to aid me in the battle, but I had forgotten about Jann's negation of my spellcasting again (reducing my Stamina to 20). Flanker wounded me three times (leaving me with 14 Stamina), but I used a Luck point to get his Stamina below 3 in one hit.  I then spared his life, and he offered to help me once I reached Khare. My Luck was restored back to 7 for this fortuitous encounter.

Further along I passed by an old woman sitting in front of a hut. I tried to pass her by, but she got angry when I ignored her, and ordered me to come back. Thinking better of it (you never know who's a wizard, after all), I went back and we enjoyed a cup of tea together (restoring my Stamina to 15).  (There was a bit where she poisoned her own tea, which I think was her way of determining if you are trustworthy.)  It turned out that the spell book page the old man had given me earlier in my adventure had been stolen from her, and she was able to use it to get rid of Jann.  Huzzah!

Soon I came to Torrepani, home of the Svinns. I tried to talk to them, but soon I was boasting about my exploits, and they realised that I was a heroic adventurer. I was seized, and held captive in a hut, where I decided to eat a meal and sleep.  In the morning they gave me a hearty breakfast, and all of this eating and sleeping restored my Stamina back to 21. The chief came to see me, and told me that he wanted me to rescue his daughter from the local Manticore. Without much choice in the matter, I was happy to oblige, and soon found myself being lowered into the Manticore's cave.

(At this point you're given the option of trying to escape, or allowing yourself to be lowered into the cave because you're "thinking of the rich treasures you may win".  Not thinking of rescuing an innocent girl, or avoiding being murdered by Svinns. Thinking of treasure.  It puts me in the mind of a Paul Mason interview about Slaves of the Abyss, in which he claimed that Steve Jackson made him change the ending because the players should "jolly well get a lot of treasure".)

After a few twists and turns,  fell into a pit full of snakes.

I tried to levitate out with a ZEN spell, but without the required Jewel-Studded Medallion the spell fizzled. I was bitten by snakes, and this combined with the spell reduced me to 19 Stamina.  Not that it mattered; I tried to look for another means of escape, but there was none.  I could have called on Libra, but I'd already done so to escape from the Headhunters. With no way out, I was killed by the snakes, and my adventure was over.

Well, I nearly made it.  My mistake here was heading through Headhunter territory, but I had no idea that it was a fruitless endeavour.  I'm pretty sure now that I know the optimum path through the book, so my next go will have no frivolous deviations.  Probably.