Saturday, October 22, 2016

Scorpion Swamp: Evil Attempt 1

In my last post, I technically achieved victory in Scorpion Swamp by completing the quest of the good wizard Selator.  There are two other quests in this book, though, and I am duty bound to win them both.  So, armed with my magic ring, and ready to explore the swamp once more, I decided that this time around I was going to play it as a right bastard.

(As an aside, it's always thrown me off that the good wizard's name rhymes with Skeletor.  I frequently have to remind myself that "oh yeah, he's the good one".)

For my stats I rolled Skill 11, Stamina 15 and Luck 12.  These stats were the impetus for me choosing evil this time around.  I feel like the evil quest is the most difficult to beat, so I'm only going to tackle it when my stats are high.

All right then.  I got swamps to explore, murders to commit, treasure to loot, puppies to kick and presidential offices to run for.  Let's do some evil.


Upon entering Fenmarge I went to the tavern, where the locals told me I was a fool for wanting to enter Scorpion Swamp.  One of them had the impertinence to put his hand on my shoulder, so I put my hand on my sword and threatened to kill them all.  Much to my surprise the townsfolk weren't scared or impressed, so I slunk away in embarrassment (reducing my Luck to 11).

Before I could leave the tavern I was accosted by a fellow named Gronar, who offered to help me find a quest.  Instead I ignored him; random mapping and beast-slaying sounded pretty good to me.  He insisted that I'd need help to survive in the swamp, but again I ignored him and made my way to the swamp.

Apparently I should have listened, because my first foray into the swamp (glossed over by the book in one sentence) resulted in me barely surviving to return to Fenmarge.  (This required a successful Luck test.  If memory serves, failing said Luck test results in a fatal end.  I made the roll, and was penalised a further 2 Luck points for general stupidity, leaving me with a score of 8.)

I sought out Gronar and apologised (I didn't mean it), and he told me that there were three local wizards looking for an adventurer to explore Scorpion Swamp: the good wizard Selator, the evil Grimslade, and the mysterious Poomchukker.  Reasoning that the forces of evil would pay the highest (and resisting the urge to serve such an awesomly named wizard as Poomchukker), I left to find Grimslade.

Nobody wanted to direct me to Grimslade's tower, until I found a skinny ruffian in the marketplace who helpfully gave me directions.  It just goes to show, sometimes the evil people are the best ones.  Grimslade's home had the standard super-villain decor, with the gargoyles and the jagged towers and the whatnot.  Not only that, but my magic ring was growing hot, warning me that Grimslade was really, really evil.  (Stupid ring.  Why doesn't it detect that I'm evil?)

When I entered the tower, Grimslade - a skeletally thin figure in black robes with glowing runes on them - was waiting for me, and already knew what I wanted.  He told me that he wanted a fearless servant, and I replied that I had no fear.  (I skipped the option where I tell him about the ring.  Never let evil wizards know you have good stuff.)  Grimslade's reply was to use his magic to animate a nearby Statue of a Goblin, which I had to fight to prove myself.

I beat the statue without being hit (using a broken chair leg, no less) and Grimslade was impressed.  He cast a spell to restore my Luck (back to its initial level of 12), and gifted me with a magic sword.

(This is another one of those irritating magic swords that increases Skill, rather than Attack Strength.  I was so annoyed that I went back and re-read the rules.  It says, and I quote: "A Magic Weapon may increase your Skill, but remember that only one weapon can be used at a time!  ... Your Skill score can never exceed its Initial value."  I was all set to weasel my way around the rules, but it seems pretty concrete to me: there's no weaseling around the word "never".  I'm going to allow myself some slight leeway, though, and use that Skill bonus to offset any penalties that I later receive.  It's something I probably should have been doing for years, but instead I've only been adding the bonus when I gain a magic sword.  I don't know why it never occurred to me to do it this way from the beginning.)

Grimslade explained that several wizards have taken up residence in Scorpion Swamp, and that their powers seem to stem from the amulets they all carry.  My task was to bring him at least three of those amulets, with my reward being 500 gold pieces per amulet.  Bingo!  I knew that choosing evil would pay off.

I was then able to choose six spell gems to take with me, from the Neutral and Evil lists.  I chose one each of the evil spells (Curse, Fear, Withering) as well as Fire, Stamina and Skill.  I was expecting a lot of battles, and made sure to pick spells that could restore my abilities.

I took my leave of Grimslade and headed back into the swamp, this time with a purpose to guide me.  At the first clearing I jumped over a patch of soft ground (thrilling adventure!) and took the right-hand path.  That path led to a clearing with a large stone and a hollow tree.

I wasn't about to rest here without checking out that tree first, and it was just as well.  No sooner did I approach the tree than a Bear stuck its head out.  I attacked it with gusto, and was able to kill it without suffering a single wound.  Alas, it had no treasure, so I left this clearing to the east.

In the next clearing was a "small pool".  When I approached it, a great, tentacled beast rose up to attack me  (I question the description here, because a creature like that wouldn't fit in a small pool.)

The Pool Beast had a violet jewel embedded in its head, and I was never going to flee with such riches on offer.  I attacked it with my sword, and although it wounded me twice (reducing my Stamina to 11), I was able to kill it and pry the gem from its forehead.  The only exit from the clearing was back the way I came, so I retraced my steps to the bear clearing, and headed north from there.

(At this point, I'd like to point out that the illustration above is completely wasted.  The Pool Beast is on the cover already!  Use an illustration for something else!)

The next clearing was festooned with spider webs.  A pavilion floated above the surface of the swamp, and sitting on a throne inside it was a sinister-looking chap wearing a spider amulet: the Master of Spiders!

I considered casting a spell, but nothing seemed immediately useful, so I resorted back to my usual tactic of sword-to-the-face.  The Master fought back with his wand, the tip of which glistened with venom.  He struck me twice before I killed him, and the venom made the wounds more severe than they otherwise would have been.  (Each blow subtracted 3 from my Stamina instead of the usual 2, reducing my Stamina to 5.  I also used a point of Luck to kill the Master more quickly, reducing that score to 11.)  When I claimed his amulet, his body burst into flames, setting fire to some nearby webs.  I hurried north from the clearing to avoid being burned.  (I also cast my Stamina spell at this point, restoring my score to 13.)

The next clearing was thick with grass, which looked pleasant enough, but I should have been more wary.  Each blade of grass had a pincer at the tip, and they reached out to attack me.  It was Crab Grass!  (Oh ho ho, I see what you did there Fake Steve.)

Whipping out my trusty magic sword once again, I chopped the grass down (all 16 bloody Stamina points of it) and continued on my merry way down the path to the east, past a tree with the words "Beware of Orcs" scorched on the trunk.  Pfft.  Orcs.  Nobody has to beware of Orcs. (Except for Boromir, the wimp.)

No sooner did I enter the next clearing than an arrow went whizzing past my head.  Sure enough, three Swamp Orcs were there with bows at the ready.

Another Orc fired at me, and the arrow grazed my arm (reducing my Skill to 10, a wound now offset by my magical sword).  Enraged, I once again attacked with sword in hand, and had to fight all three simultaneously.  I dispatched the first two quickly (using a Luck point to expedite the process, dropping my score to 10), but the last was able to wound me three times before it died (reducing my Stamina to 7).

(When the arrow was fired at me, the book asked if I had a golden magnet amulet.  As I recall, having that amulet is very bad indeed.)

The Orcs had a few gold pieces (frustratingly not enumerated), as well as a crude map that indicated a frog with a crown to the south of my present location.  My curiosity piqued, I headed in that direction.

As expected, the next clearing was infested with frogs.  There was also a man perched on top of a huge mushroom: the Master of Frogs.

He greeted me, and I acted with friendliness in return, all the while eyeing his amulet with greed.  I didn't want to tell him about my evil mission, so instead I made up some story about being in the service of Baron Sukumvit of Fang, and searching Scorpion Swamp for monsters to be used in Deathtrap Dungeon.  (This might be the sole connection this book has to anything else in the series.)  Alas, he did not believe my story (because I failed a Luck test, reducing my score to 9).  Not only that, but he set a pair of Giant Frogs on me.  I was able to kill them without suffering any wounds, but by that time the Master of Frogs had escaped into the swamp.  That was one amulet I would not be getting my hands on.

I retraced my steps back past the dead Orcs, then headed north.  The next clearing was empty.  Heading east from there, I came to a lovely glade with a crystalline pool of water.  It looked inviting, but I decided to wait rather than drink right away.  A lizard came and drank from the pool, and seemed to suffer no ill effects.  I drank from the pool myself, and discovered that it had magical healing properties (which restored my Stamina to 10).

I decided to retrace my steps back to the clearing where I had fought the Crab Grass, and from there I headed west.  In the next clearing I found a dead warrior, with a golden magnet pendant around his neck.  I claimed the pendant, and moved on to the west.  (I'm pretty sure that the amulet is safe to carry, so long as you don't get shot at by the Orcs.)

In the next clearing I encountered a Unicorn, maddened by claw wounds on its flank.  I didn't fancy a battle with the creature, so I cast a Fear spell, and it fled from me.  With nothing else of interest here, I continued to the west.

I emerged in a clearing covered in flowers.  My ring was warning me of evil, and eventually I realised that I was standing in a patch of Fear Flowers, and breathing in their fear-inducing pollen.  I quickly fled to the north, shaken by the experience.  (All up I lost 2 points of Skill, which left me with a score of 8.  There's little that's deadlier in Fighting Fantasy than a loss of Skill.  I'd question why these flowers were registering as evil on my magic ring, but I think I already have my answer.)

In the clearing to the north the swamp gave way to lush, tropical plants, with hundreds of brightly coloured birds flitting through the trees.  A large parrot asked what my business was with the Mistress of Birds.  Sensing another amulet to purloin, I asked the parrot to lead me to its mistress.

The Mistress of Birds addressed me politely, and I noted that my ring did not sense any evil about her.  I demanded that she give me her amulet, but instead she gave me a guilt-trip about serving an evil wizard, and offered to whip me up a fake amulet.  Oh, and then she told me that I should totally kill the Master of Spiders for being evil, because Good is always judgmental and hypocritical.  Rather than give her the thorough stabbing that I wanted to, I took the fake amulet and went on my way.

Unfortunately, I had to retrace my steps back past the Fear Flowers, which resulted in the loss of another Skill point.  Confident that I wouldn't have to navigate the Fear Flowers again, I cast my Skill spell and restored my score back to 11.

The urge to explore deeper into the swamp was upon me,  so I retraced my path back past the unicorn (now gone), the dead warrior (still dead), the Crab Grass (destroyed), and the Orcs (slain).  From the empty clearing north of the Orcs I headed west.  That clearing was overrun with scorpions, but I was able to leap over them to safety and carry on to the north.

I crossed the Foulbrood River using the bridge, and further north found a nest being guarded by a Giant Eagle.  The Eagle's keen eyes spied my fake bird amulet, and so it let me pass unmolested.

I headed west from there, just in time to witness a Dwarven Warrior being pincered to death by a Giant Scorpion.  With the Scorpion thus distracted, I hastened past without bothering to help; the Dwarf was probably dead anyway, and I figured that perhaps I could come back later and loot his body once the Scorpion had eaten his fill and left.

Heading north I came to a four-way intersection, where I headed north again.  Soon I was hailed by a Ranger, who was just chilling on some rocks.  Doing some Rangering.  (How come he doesn't get lost in the swamp and die?  Where's his magic ring?  Huh?  Huh, Fake Steve?)

I totally lied to the Ranger, telling him that I served the forces of Good.  He fell for it (as I passed the requisite Luck test, leaving my score at 8), and allowed me to pass by and head east.

The eastward path was very well-tended, with all sorts of healthy, beautiful plants.  I was approached by a middle-aged dude, who introduced himself as the Master of Gardens.

Get a load of this guy.  I hadn't met too many folks who looked more in need of a good punch in the snoot, but instead I refrained and cast a Withering spell at him.  I had reasoned that, being so in tune with the plants and such, the spell might affect him, but instead it passed through him and killed one of his trees.  His reaction was somewhat underwhelming: he set my hair on fire (reducing my Stamina to 8).  Hardly the act of a great, powerful wizard.

His next act, though, was a doozy, as the dude simply waved his hand and reduced my Skill score by 3 points.  WHAT.  THE.  ACTUAL.  FUCK.  That is some potent stuff.  Where was that spell in Zagor's arsenal, or Balthus Dire's?  Lightweights.

Even with that reduction, my Skill was two points higher than that of the Master of Gardens.  I should have beaten him.  I almost did, but once I had him down to 4 Stamina the dice turned on me.  Thus, I ended my path of evil at the hands of a gardener, and my adventure was over.


There's something faintly embarrassing about  dying in Scorpion Swamp, because it has such a reputation for being a cakewalk.  That's a fair assessment for the Good and Neutral quests, but it's a bit more difficult to win the Evil quest, especially if you try to go for all five amulets as I did.  I really should have headed for the Master of Wolves right after getting the fake bird amulet, but I was determined to try my luck.  Next time, I'll know to bring more healing magic.

Oh, and before I sign off, here's my map so far:

Looks like I've got most of it.  I'm not sure which quest I'll take on in my next attempt; I'll decide that after my stats have been determined.  And if my stats are really high, I might just take a stab at killing everything in the whole damned swamp.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Scorpion Swamp: Attempt 1

You're no fool.  All your life you've heard tales of Scorpion Swamp and how it is criss-crossed with treacherous paths leading to the haunts of its disgusting denizens.  One step out of place spells a certain and lingering death.  But now, the swamp holds out the lure of treasure and glory - and you cannot resist the challenge!

It is with great relief that I temporarily take my leave of the Sorcery! epic, and return to some good old traditional Fighting Fantasy.  It's not that I dislike Sorcery!, far from it.  But that series is on the high end of the gamebook complexity scale, and sometimes it's nice to tackle something a bit simpler.  Luckily for me, it doesn't get much simpler than Scorpion Swamp.

Scorpion Swamp is the eighth book in the Fighting Fantasy series, written by Steve Jackson and illustrated by Duncan Smith.  The name "Steve Jackson"  on the by-line of a gamebook is usually good news, but this time around there's something of a caveat involved: it's not that Steve Jackson.  No, the writer of Scorpion Swamp is a totally different bloke from the one who gave us the Sorcery! epic, Citadel of Chaos, and half of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (oh alright, he also wrote Starship Traveller, nobody's perfect).  The Steve Jackson of Scorpion Swamp was (and still is) the head of Steve Jackson Games, and a damn good game designer in his own right.  He's probably best known for creating GURPS (the worst-named RPG of all time), but has a pretty high number of other classic games on his resume: Ogre, Car Wars, Illuminati, Munchkin...  The guy is no slouch, is what I'm getting at.

I've always found it amusing that once the FF series took off, and Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone weren't able to keep up with the demands of the publishers, that the first guy they got in to write a gamebook was also called Steve Jackson.  I'd love to know whose call it was, and if they really did it on purpose to fool people.  If so, they certainly got me: I thought for years that Scorpion Swamp and Demons of the Deep were by Real Steve.  I also thought that Real Steve was the designer of GURPS and Car Wars, so I was really fooled.  Anyway, if the publisher's intention was to trick its customers it worked, but there are only so many Steve Jacksons in the world who are capable of writing gamebooks.  Later on, Penguin just slapped Ian and Steve's names on the cover in shiny foil and put the real author's name on the inside in microscopic print.

I described Scorpion Swamp as simplistic, but that's perhaps not the most accurate description.  On the surface it seems like a straight-forward adventure with little to distinguish it from earlier books in the series, but there's more going on under the hood.  There's no main quest, for starters: Scorpion Swamp offers three quests that can be undertaken, and that already makes it stand out.  The use of spells is another welcome addition, even if the system is far less sophisticated than those used in Sorcery! and Citadel of Chaos.  Perhaps the biggest innovation, though, is that Scorpion Swamp allows you to explore its confines as you will, even giving you the option to return to areas that you've previously explored.  Most Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are desperate to funnel you towards the endgame, and in that regard Scorpion Swamp is really quite refreshing.

That's enough preamble, it's time to adventure.  Let's get to it!

The hero of this book is your prototypical Hardy Adventurer, roaming the land and killing monsters and whatnot.  He's always avoided Scorpion Swamp though; due to a combination of labyrinthine pathways, an evil fog that covers the sky, and a tendency for compasses to become worthless within it, the swamp is virtually impossible to navigate.  Many adventurers have tried, but most became lost and were killed by the swamp's evil denizens.

While going about other adventuring business, Our Hero helped an old lady through the wilderness, and was rewarded with a magic ring that grows warm in the presence of evil.  It also gave the wearer the ability to always know which direction was north, and that gave the hero an idea: he would use it to explore the depths of Scorpion Swamp.  Why?  Who knows!  It's something to do, I guess.

For the most part, Scorpion Swamp uses the standard Fighting Fantasy rules: Skill, Stamina, Luck, all that jazz.  There are no provisions or potions though; instead you get a selection of spells to cast during the adventure.  That's not important at this stage, though, because spells aren't obtained until later.  More on that at the relevant time.

I rolled a Skill of 12, a Stamina of 20 and  Luck of 10.  When the book described me as a hardy adventurer, it was not kidding.  I began with a sword, some chainmail armour, a backpack, and the aforementioned magical brass ring.


After a long journey I arrived in the town of Fenmarge, situated on the south edge of Scorpion Swamp.  As is customary, I made my first stop at the local tavern, and did a spot of boasting, telling everyone within earshot that I'm totally awesome and that I was going to explore Scorpion Swamp.  The townspeople were shocked, and told me that on top of the other dangers I'd already heard about, that a group of wizards known as the Masters had recently taken up residence in the swamp, making it even more dangerous than before.
Despite their attempts to discourage me, I politely explained to them that I was determined to enter the swamp, and they let me go.  All except one, a farmer named Gronar who insisted that I should have a purpose beyond "random mapping and beast-slaying".  I agreed with him, and he told me that there were three local men with need of a strong fighter who could enter the swamp.  He continued, saying that the first was a wizard devoted to the cause of Good, before taking a convenient pause to swig his ale.

I took the hint, and blurted out that I would only serve Good.  Gronar seemed pretty chuffed about it, as he told me that the wizard's name was Selator, and that I should go and see him.  He also called me a "paladin", and gave me a blessing that raised my Initial Luck score to 12.

(Scorpion Swamp was one of the earliest Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I read, predating my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons, so I spent a while thinking that Paladin was my character's name.  And yeah, I totally picked Good just for the Luck bonus.  Nothing like a statistical incentive to promote virtue.)

I left the tavern and made my way to Selator's house on the outskirts of Fenmarge.  I found Selator in his garden, and explained that I wanted to help him, telling him about my magic ring.  Selator was satisfied, and launched into a big ol' bout of plot exposition.  The short version of his story is that he wanted me to find the last Antherica berry, growing in the centre of the swamp.  The berry had powerful healing properties, but no use in evil magic, and so evil wizards had set about destroying them all.  If I found one for Selator, he could ensure the plant's survival.  My reward would be that I could keep any treasure I found within the swamp.  Thanks for nothing, Selator.

Selator offered me six spell gems, each of which contained a single casting of a spell.  I was able to pick from the Good and Neutral spell list.  I'll do a quick run-down of the spells available to me:

Skill: Restores Skill points equal to half of initial score
Stamina: Restores Stamina points equal to half of initial score
Luck: Restores... ah, you get it.
Fire: Sets things on fire.
Ice: Freezes stuff
Illusion: Creates an illusion.  (Did I really need to explain these?)

Friendship: Makes a creature like me, so long as they understand the idea of friendship
Growth: Makes a plant grow larger
Bless: Restores Skill, Stamina and Luck of another creature

I chose Friendship, Growth, Bless, Stamina, Fire and Ice.  I figured that my Skill and Luck scores were high enough that I wouldn't need to restore them.  The spell gems are good for one use each.  You can take multiples of one spell, but I decided to spread my choices out for maximum versatility.

And now, on to Scorpion Swamp to find the Antherica berry.  I walked past an ominous skull-and-crossbones sign, following a trail to the first clearing.  The path was blocked by a large patch of soft ground, but I had no trouble jumping over it (by rolling less than my Stamina score on two dice).

I took a path leading west, and in the next clearing I found a log cabin.  I was immediately confronted by a bearded man flanked by a pair of wolves, and by his amulet I identified him as one of the Masters that I had been warned about.

The Master of Wolves told me to bugger off, but I wanted to learn more about the layout of the swamp, so I cast a Friendship spell on him.  His mood quickly changed, and he invited me inside his cabin for a chat.  He told me that I should cross the river by "the easy way", and not to look for traps where there are none.  He also gave me a magic word to use when threatened by wolves, which seemed much more useful than his lame advice.  A bit disappointed, I took my leave and headed north.

I soon came to a shallow stream, and rather than waste a spell I decided to wade across.  As always happens when wading in Fighting Fantasy, I emerged with bloodsucking leeches attached to my legs.  (I had to roll two dice, and lose a number of Stamina points as shown on the lower of the two dice.  Luckily for me that meant I only lost 1 Stamina, leaving me with 19.)

In the next clearing I found myself surrounded by weird trees, each with limbs that ended in swords.  Unsurprisingly, they moved to attack, and I had to defend myself against the Sword Trees.

(I hate this encounter so much.  Hate hate hate.  You'll find out why as I progress.)

I cast a Fire spell on them, thinking to destroy them instantly, but all it did was subtract 2 Stamina from them.  I was forced to battle them with my sword, but luckily I got through with only a single wound (reducing my Stamina to 17).  The Sword Trees had no treasure, so instead I pocketed a handful of their seeds.

From there I headed west, into a dead-end clearing with nothing in it but a large grey boulder.  I was about to leave when the boulder stirred, and was revealed as a Dire Beast, a shaggy six-legged monstrosity intent on killing me.  Instead I killed it, suffering one wound in the process (and leaving me with 15 Stamina), and cut of some of its claws as memento of the battle.  (Seriously, seeds and some claws.  This is the great treasure of Scorpion Swamp.)

There was no way to go but back the way I had came.  Which I did, only to find that the bloody Sword Trees had grown back.  I killed them without being hit, but honestly, I've already had a gutfull of them.  And this isn't even the last time I'm going to have to fight the bastards.  To top it off, I have to read Fake Steve Jackson's stupid "fertilizer for the trees" pun every time.  Screw you, Fake Steve.

This time I went north, and came to a clearing where I found a lovely Unicorn.

Well, maybe not so lovely: the Unicorn was injured, and looked ready to attack me as I approached.  Rather than fight it, I cast a Bless spell on the Unicorn to heal its wounds.  The grateful Unicorn dug a hole in the ground, and there I found two spell gems: Friendship (to replace the one I'd already cast) and Luck.  Huzzah!

I headed north again, through a bank of swamp gas that caused me to lose 2 Stamina (leaving me with 13).  Soon I reached the bank of the Foulbrood River, which was infested with crocodiles.  I decided against trying to cross, and walked east.  The ground sloped upwards until I was on a cliff overlooking the river, with no way to go further east.  I could see a bridge in that direction, but again I decided against swimming and headed south.

In a pleasant glade, I encountered a friendly fellow leaning against a tree eating cheese with his knife.  He offered to share his meal, but my magic ring warned me that he was evil, as if the cheese-eating and dapper clothes hadn't warned me already.

I wasn't about to accept this guy's hospitality, or leave him alive to sneak up on me, so a thorough swording was my only option.  He put up a good fight, wounding me three times before I killed him (and leaving me with 7 Stamina.  At this point I cast my Stamina spell, and restored my score back to 17.)  His only possession worth looting was his red cloak, which I pinched, as well as some of his cheese.

(The line after you kill the Thief is hilarious: "He wasn't as clever as he thought he was!"  I dunno, was he trying to be clever?  He invited me to dinner, and I rammed a sword in his head.  Maybe he just wanted to chat?  Even evil people don't do evil stuff all the time.)

I headed east, and in the next clearing was accosted by a horde of Scorpions.  Who would have expected it?!?

I was able to avoid their initial charge with a successful Luck test (leaving my Luck score at 11).  After that I tried to jump over them, which I did by rolling under my Stamina on two dice.  Easy.

Heading north I came to the bridge over the Foulbrood River and, remembering the advice of the Master of Wolves, I crossed it without incident.

Further north I came to a tall tree with a nest at the top.  A Giant Eagle watched me from its perch, but made no move to attack me, and I was able to leave the clearing in safety.  (If I'd had a feather or a bird amulet, things might have been different.)

I headed east, and had the misfortune to find myself in a patch of quicksand.  One successful Luck test later (leaving my score at 10), I was able to escape (at the cost of reducing my Stamina to 15).

Travelling north, I stumbled over what I thought was a dip in the ground, only to discover that it was actually a huge footprint.  An angry giant blocked my path, brandishing a club and yelling that I could not pass.

I tried to reason with the Giant, and suddenly he burst into tears.  It turned out that he had lost the handkerchief that his wife had made for him, and was rather upset about it.  I offered him the "red cloak" that I had taken from the Thief, and this cheered him up immensely.  He informed me that the berry I was looking for was in a clearing to the north, but that I should watch out for wolves.  (All the while, I imagine my character trying not to do a spew.  Imagine carrying around a 3 foot square handkerchief used by a giant?  My only consolation is that it was described as being new, and so probably unused at this point.)

I went north, and sure enough, Wolves.

I used the magic word that the Master of Wolves had taught me, and the Wolves had a play with me before I moved on.

In the next clearing I found the berry, with a distinct lack of fanfare.  The option of eating it was a tempting one, but I resisted it and instead picked it and put it in my pouch.  Now all I had to do was retrace my steps, and return to Selator.

That would be too easy though.  I went back to the Giant's clearing, but instead of continuing south I veered to the west.  I soon came to a four-way junction, and took the south trail.  I could hear the sound of fighting, and it seemed that I had arrived at an opportune time: a Dwarf warrior was locked in combat with a Giant Scorpion, which was poised to kill the poor fellow.

I attacked the Scorpion, which wasn't badly wounded as "evidently the Dwarf was not a very skilled fighter" (harsh, Fake Steve).  I, on the other hand, was supremely skilled, and made short work of it.  I was too late to save the Dwarf, though.  I might have healed him with a Bless spell, but I didn't have one, so I did the only thing I could in the circumstances, the only right thing to do: I looted his corpse.  What I found was a vial of potion, which I greedily gulped down.  It was a potion of handsomeness, but alas it was made for Dwarves, and my body was subtly reshaped to be shorter, stockier and beardier.  The net result was that I had to reduce my Skill to 11 for my next battle.

Heading east, I came to the clearing with the Eagle's nest.  The Eagle wasn't there this time, and I couldn't resist climbing up to have a stickybeak.  I was Unlucky and fell (reducing my Luck to 9 and my Stamina to 13), but on my second go I made it to the top and found a gold chain.  Finally, some actual treasure!

I went south and back over the bridge, then south again to jump over my old mates the scorpions.  From there I went west, back to the clearing where I had met the Thief.  Instead of retracing my steps north, I took the path to the south, where I found the signs of a battle and the body of a fallen warrior.

The unfortunate fellow had been shot with arrows by Swamp Orcs, and was very dead.  I looted a golden amulet in the shape of a magnet from his corpse, and moved on.

I went west, back to the Unicorn clearing, then south, only to find that THE BLOODY SWORD TREES WERE BACK AGAIN.  I decided to try another spell this time, and risking everything on a bonehead decision I cast Growth.  The idea here was that the trees would grow so big that I'd be able to slip by them.  Instead, they all grew extra arms, complete with swords, and I had to do the same fight again, only with the Sword Trees having their Stamina doubled from 12 to 24.  Frustration kicked in here, and I cast a Luck spell to restore that score to its Initial level.  Then I spammed Luck tests with every blow I struck to increase the damage.  I was able to kill the enhanced Sword Trees, although they struck me twice (leaving me with 9 Stamina, and a Luck of 5).

Heading south I once again came to the stream with the leeches in it.  This time I froze it with an Ice spell, and crossed without incident.

South I went, past the Wolf Master's cabin, then east to the entrance clearing.  One jump over some soft ground, and I was home free.  I gave the berry to Selator, he grew a plant from it, and we had a good old bit of chat afterwards.  The Antherica was saved, and I had succeeded in my quest.

That was a bit easy, wasn't it?  Here's the thing: I have the path memorised for this quest.  It's a fair bit harder when you're wandering the swamp with no idea which is the right way to go.  Still, I'll take it; an easy victory every now and then is a heartening experience.

So what next?  Normally it would be a wrap-up post followed by the next Exploring Titan, but that's going to have to wait.  I did say there were three quests, after all, and I intend to complete them all.  I'm not sure which will be next, but it probably depends on my stats.  If they're high, I'll go for the Evil quest, otherwise I'll try the Neutral one.

Oh, and here's my map so far:

I'm going to try to hit every clearing in the course of my three quests.  I could probably have done some more exploration here, but it's a decent start.