Another post, another attempt to find the five dragon artefacts and keep them out of the hands of the evil wizard Malbordus. Once again, I've skipped ahead because Attempts 8 and 9 were both complete busts. For Attempt 8 I rolled a Skill of 10 and a Luck of 7, but despite not being all that confident about my chances I gave it a good crack anyway. Predictably, I got killed by the Giant Sandworm; I knew things weren't going my way in the first combat round when I rolled a double 6 for it and a double 1 for me. For Attempt 9, I rolled a Skill of 9 and just decided to chuck it in. I skipped through Port Blacksand as quickly as possible, not engaging in any encounters, and when the dwarf warship picked me up I gave the wrong answer when they asked me the identity of their king. As I suspected, they flogged me and threw me overboard, and my adventure was over. I do appreciate a quick spot near the start of a book that I can use to kill off weaker characters.
For Attempt 10, I rolled a Skill of 11, a Stamina of 14, and a Luck of 8. Those were not the most encouraging scores, aside from Skill, but I felt like I had a good knowledge of the adventure now, perhaps good enough to avoid encounters that would needlessly lower my stats. I just had to hope that there weren't any mission critical Luck tests involved. For my spells, as usual, I chose Read Symbols, Open Door, Detect Trap and Fire.
I had little trouble on the road to Vatos, taking the route through Port Blacksand that I've outlined in previous posts. Even the Giant Sandworm didn't give me much trouble, as the dice were falling in my favour for a change. From the Merchant, I bought the Onyx Egg, the Crystal Key, the Bone Flute and Bracelet of Mermaid Scales; I know that three of those are useful during the adventure, and I took a gamble on the Bone Flute.
After my encounter with the Messenger of Death, my stats were as follows: Skill 10 (with a +1 bonus from wearing an Iron Helmet); Stamina 7; Luck 7; no gold, 10 provisions; also carrying: sword, backpack, leather armour, lantern, brass telescope, 2 silver buttons, pearl, golden key, water canister, brass handbell, onyx egg, bracelet of mermaid scales, crystal key, bone flute, sandworm tooth, iron helmet (+1 skill).
I've covered much of the dungeons beneath Vatos before, so I'll go over them as quickly as possible in point form:
- Opened some drapes, revealing a door leading to a room with a bucket hanging from the ceiling. Killed a Giant Centipede (Skill 9, Stamina 7), had my own Stamina reduced to 5, and found a Bone Dragon Artefact in the bucket. Ate two provisions, Stamina restored to 13.
- Jumped a pit in the corridor by rolling under my Skill (10) on two dice.
- Got past the Eye Stinger by holding up my Onyx Egg.
- Ignored the iron grille (it's part of the Messenger of Death's trap, featuring the letter H).
- Turned left at the next junction, fought and killed a Lizard Man (9/8). Found an Iron Key.
- Turned left at another junction, traded my Brass Telescope to a Gnome scavenger for a Crystal Dragon Artefact.
- Back past the junction, fought and killed two Rat Men. Found 3 gold pieces and a monkey's tail. Exited room through left arch (ignoring trapped right arch).
- Turned left at T-junction, then right at another junction. Fought and killed two Skeleton Warriors (Stamina reduced to 9). Took a shield (+1 Skill). Found a clay goblet in a crypt - unlocked with my Iron Key - at the end of the corridor.
- Back past the junction, ignored the door leading into the Death Dog's lair. The corridor turned right, and I saw a wounded warrior on the floor, reaching for his sword. The man was dying, and I listened as he gasped out his final words: he was apparently a treasure-hunter, seeking a golden skeleton. He also warned me to "beware the shadow of the stone".
- The corridor turned right again, and I ignored a door leading into a room where I'd had nightmarish visions in a previous game. I continued down the corridor and fought some Giant Fireflies.
- Walked past a statue with a raised hammer, with no ill effects.
- Entered the flooded room with the Tentacled Thing, but because I was carrying the Bracelet of Mermaid Scales it fled instead of attacking me.
- Continued forward at the next junction, found a Silver Dragon Artefact in a dead end alcove.
- Encountered a Phantom, and survived its stare with a roll of two dice under my Skill. Killed the Phantom by throwing a silver button at it. Luck restored to 8.
- Turned right at next junction, took a tapestry depicting a Phoenix from the wall. Ignored the Sphinx chair. Bathed my wounds in a crescent-shaped pool, restoring Stamina to 13.
- Back past the junction, met Murkegg the artist, who told me about the High Priestess Leesha and her art competition.
- Corridor turned right, and I ignored the screams coming from the torture chamber. (I don't think this encounter gives anything useful.) In another room, unlocked with a golden key, I successfully answered the question posed by an ancient idol, and got a +2 bonus to both Skill and Luck (restoring my Luck to 8).
- With two doors forward, I picked the one on the right. It opened into a storeroom full of rugs, vases, urns and other containers. A red-skinned, horned figure climbed out of one of the urns, breathing fire at me. It was a Fiend (6/8), but despite its fire breath I killed it easily. It had a 2-in-6 chance of burning me every round, but I managed to avoid it completely. In a box I found a necklace engraved with a heart, and decided to wear it. Unbeknownst to me it was a necklace for sacrificial victims, and wearing it reduced my Luck to 7.
- Going through the left door, I was faced with a door with a coin box attached. I declined to put a coin in the slot (because doing so exposes one of the Messenger of Death's letters) and continued on.
- In the dark corridor beyond I stumbled into a blade at shin height, dropping my Stamina to 11 and my Luck to 6.
- Disabled a Night Horror with my Brass Handbell (requiring a successful Luck test that reduced my score to 5). Picked up its Silver Rod to stop the ceiling from lowering and killing me. Unlocked the door onward with my Crystal Key.
- Found an Ebony Dragon Artefact in a carving of Vatos. Luck restored to 6.
- Challenged by a trio of Dark Disciples. I tried to convince them that I had a gift for Leesha, but the necklace I was wearing made them think that I was a sacrificial victim. They started chanting, and I was compelled to walk towards their altar. I was able to resist their influence (with a roll of two dice under my Skill), and had to fight all three Disciples (9/5, 8/6, 9/5). Only the last one wounded me, leaving me with a Stamina of 9. I took one of their sacrificial daggers with me.
- Fought my way through four stone arms wielding swords.
- Turned left rather than walk through the curtain of golden rain. The tunnel led to a dead end, where I was confronted by a Mutant Orc Assassin who had been sent by Malbordus. The Orc was wielding two long knives, and I would have had to reduce my Attack Strength by 2 if I wasn't also carrying a dagger. I whipped out my Sacrificial Dagger in my off-hand to fight the Mutant Orc (11/11). It struck me once, reducing my Stamina to 7. I took one of its knives and went through the arch with the golden rain.
- Fought a Slave Guard (8/8). Stamina reduced to 5. Sat down on some cushions, but refused to sleep. Ate two provisions (6 left, Stamina restored to 13).
- A priest entered the room, and I confronted him rather than hide behind the drapes. Seeing me standing over the dead body of the slave guard, the priest summoned an Air Elemental, which buffeted me against the wall (reducing my Stamina to 11). It buffeted me again as I looked through my pack (further reducing my Stamina to 9). I pulled out my Phoenix Tapestry, and the priest - apparently recognising the significance of the Phoenix - dismissed his Elemental. I explained that the Slave Guard had been killed for trying to assassinate Leesha. (I'm not quite sure what's going on here. Does this priest think I'm one of the artists? Or does the Phoenix have religious significance, and grant me immunity? It's not all that well explained.) Ate another provision (5 left, Stamina restored to 13).
- Hacked open locked door, faced with Sun Door and Moon Door. Exited room through Moon Door. (I did a translation on the doors this time, using the key from the "DO NOT DRINK" pool I had bathed my wounds in earlier. The Sun Door has writing that says DOOM and the Moon Door has writing that says DESTINY.)
- Found three coloured pots. Opened the white pot, found a copper ring. Ignored the other two.
- Ignored the trapdoor in the next room. (I'd been down there in the dark in an earlier game, and been dropped on by an Iron Eater, so I figured I shouldn't go down there. I was a little worried that I might miss something vital by skipping it, though.)
- In the treasure room, I ignored the casket and the gems, but took the golden skeleton to honour the fallen warrior that I'd encountered earlier. It was greatly valuable, which restored my Luck to 7.
- Turned left at a junction. The corridor ended at the bottom of a flight of stairs. I climbed up, opened a door that led outside into the Desert of Skulls. There were footprints leading away, around the city wall, but I thought better of following them and returned to the junction.
- Found a bowl of grapes, and ate some. Stamina restored to 14.
- Confronted by two Skeleton Men (9/6 and 9/8). Killed both, Stamina reduced to 8. This is the furthest point I've yet reached in this adventure.
Taking no time to search the Skeleton Men, I ran through an arch and up a flight of stairs. In an opulent room lined with marble pillars, a beautiful woman lay on a couch strewn with satin cushions. It was Leesha, the High Priestess of Vatos. A muscular man with milky-white eyes stood behind the couch, fanning her. At a snap of her finger, the muscular Servant moved to attack me.
The Servant (8/8) was no match for me, and I cut him down with ease. Leesha rose from her couch, and held aloft a black, crescent-shaped object. Rather than attack with my sword, I pulled out my Giant Sandworm Tooth. This was a lucky coincidence, as this was the only weapon that could harm her. (I'm not sure that the book ever clues you in to this weakness, or if it's just pure chance that the hero chooses this moment to use the tooth.) With a look of horror, she fled from the temple. Before giving chase, I decided to take a look in a chest near her couch. Written in gold dust on the bottom of the chest was the letter D - left there by the Messenger of Death. It drained my strength (leaving me with 4 Stamina), but I was glad to have fully avoided the assassin's trap. (I should have scoffed some Provisions here, but given that the book describes me as trying to chase down Leesha I decided that it would break the narrative.)
I chased after Leesha, in time to see her disappear through a door at the end of a hallway. A bronze idol shaped like a dog was in the hallway, and I stopped to quickly investigate. Inside the idol's mouth I found a Gold Dragon Artefact, the last of the five I needed.
Giving chase again, I entered a passage where I could see Leesha running through a door to the left. To the right, a Dwarf was crawling towards me, delirious with sunstroke. He called out to me, and I gave up my chase to help him. He was an envoy from Stonebridge, and had been sent by the wizard Yaztromo to deliver me the legendary Hammer of Gillibran. Apparently, this warhammer was the only thing capable of destroying the dragon artefacts, and it was vital that I destroyed the one closest to the entrance of Vatos' catacombs first. The dwarf then died in my arms. Figuring that my chances of catching Leesha were now gone, I took the time to eat two provisions (restoring my Stamina to 12).
Entering the door I had seen Leesha disappear through, I found myself in a cold room with a high-vaulted ceiling. There was a circular hole in the floor. Figuring that my time was running short, I pulled out the five dragon artefacts, and set about smashing the one I had found near the entrance to the catacombs: the Bone Dragon. It shattered under a single blow from the warhammer. (This is set up like a test of the player's memory, but it's really not that difficult. You just destroy the artefact that's written down first on your equipment list.)
A thunderous sound came from the circular pit, and a gaunt man with malevolent features rose up through the floor. Malbordus demanded that I give him the artefacts, but I refused. He clapped his hands together, and I was staggered by a deafening thunderbolt. It quickly dissipated, though, as the copper ring I had found earlier was a ring of protection. Realising that his magic could not harm me, Malbordus drew his sword and advanced.
Malbordus was a skilled swordsman (Skill 10, Stamina 18), and our battle was long. He wounded me several times (reducing my Stamina to 6), until I felled him with a final lucky blow. (I used a Luck test to kill him a little faster, even though I probably didn't need to.)
With Malbordus dead, I smashed the rest of the dragon artefacts so that no other evil wizard could ever use their power. Now I could return to Stonebridge, take the warhammer back to Gillibran, and perhaps learn some more magic from Yaztromo. My adventure was a success. (It seems more likely to me that Leesha would round up her Disciples and kill me before I could escape, but the book doesn't acknowledge that possibility.)
Success, finally! Ten attempts seems like a lot for a book that I never remembered as being particularly difficult, but death is much more likely in Fighting Fantasy when you explore every possible option. My general tactic with FF is to check out everything I encounter, and gradually whittle down the options to the ones that are most beneficial. It results in a lot of early failures (especially in books that I didn't read a lot as a kid), but it gets me there in the end.
I'll be back soon enough with my Final Thoughts on Temple of Terror, followed by an Exploring Titan post. After that, it's on to Warlock magazine #5. which features "Search for the Mungies' Gold", a multi-player adventure from Steve Jackson, and "Dungeon of Justice", a solo adventure by Jonathan Ford.