Sunday, December 4, 2016

Scorpion Swamp: Evil Attempt 2

Having completed the quests for Good and Neutrality, it's time for me to return to the Evil quest.  I attempted it a while ago and failed, mostly because I kept adventuring well past the point when I should have left the swamp.  I was killed by the Master of Plants, which is faintly embarrassing.  Sure, he has a Skill-draining spell, but there's just something about being killed by a gardener that rubs me the wrong way.  There may be some vengeance in the offing.

I rolled a strong character this time around: Skill 12, Stamina 18, and Luck 8.  That should be more than good enough to get this done, and to put Scorpion Swamp behind me.

I got through the preliminary stages of the adventure without any trouble, talking politely with Gronar before taking a job with the evil wizard Grimslade.  (In my last evil game, I played it as belligerently as possible.  This time, I'm going for cool pragmatism.)  Grimslade tested me by animating a Goblin Statue, but I smashed it to bits with such efficiency that he awarded me with a magic sword, and six spell gems.  The spells I chose were Withering, Luck, Skill, Fire, and two Stamina spells.  With that done, it was off to the swamp to retrieve the amulets of the Masters.

At the first clearing I headed west, where I found the Master of Wolves hanging about in his cabin.  I wasted no time in attacking him, and his pair of pet wolves.  The wolves went down with no trouble, but the Master wounded me twice before I was able to kill him (leaving me with 14 Stamina).  With great satisfaction I looted his amulet, and checked one Master off the list.  Four more to go!  (I wonder sometimes if the Master of Wolves is even a wizard.  He never uses any magic, and aside from his affinity with wolves he seems like little more than an antisocial hermit.)

From there I headed west and north.  I lost some blood to leeches while wading across a stream (leaving me with 13 Stamina), before encountering the dreaded Sword Trees.  With great satisfaction, I blew them into dust with a Withering spell.  (No exaggeration here, it's always immensely cathartic to destroy these bastards in an instant.)

Heading north again, I met a wounded Unicorn that was uncharacteristically hostile.  Reasoning that retreat would lead me right back to the regrown Sword Trees, I fought and killed the Unicorn.  It died easily in its weakened state, and I took its horn as a trophy.  I also found two more spell gems hidden in the clearing: Friendship and Luck.  (This required a successful Luck test, which reduced my score to 7.)

I took the west path, past a patch of Fear Flowers that drained me of two Skill points. There I met the Mistress of Birds, and even though I demanded her amulet in a most threatening fashion, she insisted on giving me a fake amulet that she assured me would be good enough to fool Grimslade.  I had no vested interest in Grimslade's desires, only in being paid, so I took the fake amulet and went on my way.

(Heading back past the Fear Flowers drained yet another Skill point.  Needless to say, I used my spell after this to get back to my initial Skill of 12.)

From the Unicorn clearing I headed north (losing 2 Stamina to some swamp gas), looping around the bank of the Foulbrood River.  Along the way I performed some preemptive murder upon a Thief (who wounded me and reduced my Stamina to 7); it was him or me!  Heading east, I was swarmed by a horde of scorpions, and stung multiple times (reducing my Stamina to 5; this was the result of a failed Luck test, which reduced my score to 6.)

To the north I crossed a bridge over the Foulbrood, avoided a Giant Eagle, and left a Dwarf to be killed and eaten by a Giant Scorpion.  I continued north until eventually I encountered a Ranger who was so bad-ass that he could lounge casually on a rock in one of the most deadly places in the world.  Knowing that Rangers are good I lied about the nature of my quest, and he reacted with some friendly chit-chat.  (His friendly reaction was due to a successful Luck test.  I had used one of my Luck spells before the encounter to restore my score, but now it dropped back to 7 due to this Luck test.)

From there I went east, and realising that I was nearing the lair of the Master of Plants I restored my Stamina with a spell (raising my total to 14).  I didn't mess about here; my goal was to take his amulet, so I attacked him instantly.  He cast a spell to weaken my sword arm, but it wasn't enough to save him.  It wasn't even enough to make the poor fellow look respectable, as I was able to kill him without suffering a single wound.  (It wasn't quite as satisfying as blasting the Sword Trees, but getting revenge for deaths in previous games always brings a smile to my face. What I wasn't smiling about was the 3 Luck points I lost from killing him, which reduced me to 4.  Seriously, this book goes out of its way to punish you for being evil.)

Taking his amulet gave me three out of five.  I could have quit at this point, but I was doing well enough that I decided to press on for the other two.  (It's exactly the same mistake that I made in my last unsuccessful attempt, but I was confident that my superior knowledge of the swamp would get me through this time.)

I retraced my steps back to the eagle's nest, and noticing that the bird was gone I climbed up and found a gold chain.  (Okay, so I failed the Luck test and fell the first time, reducing my Stamina to 12.  With my Luck so low, I used my second Luck spell to restore my score to 8).

I headed back south across the bridge, avoided the scorpions, and travelled east until I reached a pool with healing properties (which restored my Stamina back to 15).  Some more travelling south led me to a clearing where I was ambushed by a trio of Swamp Orcs.  One of them let loose an arrow that grazed my sword arm (which would have reduced my Skill to 11, were it not for my magic sword), and I was so incensed that I attacked them all.  The battle was lengthy, but I killed them all and emerged unscathed.

Further south I came to a clearing inhabited by giant frogs, as well as the Master of Frogs.  I made up a story about seeking monsters for Baron Sukumvit's Deathtrap Dungeon, and luckily he believed me.  Alas, even though I had befriended him, the Master was too quick for me, and hopped away when I tried to murder him.  I still had to fight a pair of his Frogs, though, one of which bit me (reducing my Stamina to 13).  (It turns out that you can't get the Frog Amulet without an Illusion spell, which is kind of a bummer.  Fake Steve usually doesn't require specific items or spells to solve a problem, but that's not the case here.  As usual, his bias against evil is showing.)

Retracing my steps past the dead orcs, I headed west and was attacked by some Crab Grass.  Sensing a pointless encounter, I fled south and was wounded as I ran away (reducing my Stamina to 11).

The next clearing was covered with cobwebs and spiders, so I restored my Stamina with a spell.  The Master of Spiders was here, and I engaged him in battle.  He wounded me with his poison-tipped wand (which dealt more damage than usual, and reduced my Stamina to 15), but I was otherwise easily victorious.  I claimed the Spider Amulet just before the Master's body burst into flames and set the clearing ablaze.

With four amulets in my possession, I left the swamp and returned to Grimslade's tower.  I suspected that he might cheat me, so I demanded payment before handing over the amulets.  The evil wizard honoured his bargain, and I collected a hefty 2,000 gold pieces for my troubles.  Victory and wealth were mine!  (The book made a point of saying that I feel guilty about helping him, but bollocks to that.  It's not that I'm pro-evil, it's more that I don't like gamebooks - or any form of entertainment in which the main character is played by me - telling me how I feel.  That should be up to me to decide.)

Ugh, finally.  For such an easy gamebook, I've been stuck on Scorpion Swamp for ages.  That's my own fault for being so thorough, I suppose.  I could have moved on after completing Selator's quest, but I just had to complete the other two.  It's a sickness.

I had very little trouble with the evil quest this time around,mostly because I knew what to expect and was able to prepare accordingly.  It was a little disappointing that I couldn't get all five amulets, but I'm not about to try again.  Even I have limits.  I do wonder if it's even possible to get the real Bird Amulet; I don't believe that I've ever done so.

Next up will be a post with my final thoughts on the book, followed by an Exploring Titan.  Then it's on to Caverns of the Snow Witch, which is going to be a real drag because I already played through half of it earlier this year.


  1. Well done! I guess Evil does pay, even if Fake Steve is very disappointed in you. I admit it has been a while since I played the book but I forgot how actively discouraged one was for playing evil, to the point I'm not really sure why it was given as an option to begin with.

  2. Yeah - the 'in-book' penalties for playing Evil were unfortunate. Scorpion Swamp is also a LOT freer with Skill deductions than a lot of the other books. This may be intended to encourage the player to use magic and / or thought to get out of danger rather than automatically resorting to combat.

    Good luck with Caverns of the Snow Witch. IMO its the first game to show the 'any stats can survive advice' to be a complete and utter lie.

    1. Good luck with Caverns of the Snow Witch. IMO its the first game to show the 'any stats can survive advice' to be a complete and utter lie.

      Not Deathtrap Dungeon, with its pre-endgame triple whammy of Skill 11 Ninja, Skill 12 Bloodbeast and Skill 11 Manticore?

    2. I was about to say exactly the same thing. City of Thieves is another difficult one, with its battle against the Moon Dogs.

    3. Fair point, both of you. I suppose I was more frustrated by CotSW's constant drip of Stamina loss in the second half, with no real way to stop it. Of course, Deathtrap Dungeon is exactly that. To be honest (heresy, I know) I wouldn't even put DD in my top 5 Fighting Fantasy books.

    4. I think that's fair. Deathtrap Dungeon is more a triumph of scenario and atmosphere rather than game design. It's a grossly unfair gamebook, that gets away with it because the story is set up to be exactly that.