Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Bare Essentials

One aspect of my FF walkthroughs that proved popular was my reminiscing about how I originally acquired the books, and what happened when I first played them. Since people liked these little bursts of nostalgia, and as there's a good chance that this will prove to be a very short adventure, I shall start with a meander back along memory lane.

I was part of the way through my A-levels, and in the early stages of deciding where I wanted to go to university. One of the relatively few places that actually offered the course I wanted to do was Bristol University, so when they had an open day I went out there to check it out. And while wandering around the city, I found a shop called Forever People, which sold all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy stuff. Wonderful place. The atmosphere at the university didn't appeal so much, though, and I the charms of the shop were not sufficient to persuade me to choose to study there anyway. But when British Rail did some special offer on fares a little while later, I opted to visit Bristol just to go to that shop again. And it was on my second (and final) visit to Forever People that I found and bought a copy of Naked Doom and Deathtrap Equalizer.

That was just one book. During the gamebook boom of the mid-eighties, Corgi Books jumped onto the bandwagon by reprinting 11 of the T&T solos that came out in the late seventies. Two to a book in most instances, as they were fairly slim. I'd acquired one other book in the collection at an earlier date, but I'll say more about that at the appropriate time.

I looked through the book on the train home afterwards. Didn't play it properly because I had no dice on me. Even if I had, I probably still wouldn't have bothered, what with character creation involving rolling 3d6 seven times. And that's as much as I can remember of my first time at ND.

The story doesn't end there, though. The following year, a local second-hand book/comic/memorabilia shop got in a batch of solos in their original format, published by Flying Buffalo. They were being sold as a job lot, and the presence of several titles never issued by Corgi convinced me to get the lot despite my already having some of the titles in there, including both ND and DE. Both of which turned out to have significant differences from the Corgi editions, as a consequence of which I eventually wound up tracking down FB variants of all the solos I had in Corgi, to find out what else had been changed.

Most of the differences concerned the removal or toning-down of 'adult' content. I'll say more about that at a later date. But the Corgi ND included several sections absent from the FB edition. As far as I can tell, they were added to the text at some point between the fourth printing (which is the one I own) and the last pre-Corgi edition. They were certainly there by the time 17th solo, Gamesmen of Kasar came out, because another FB job lot, this one on eBay, netted me a reprint of ND that was published at around the same time as GoK, and that one does contain the missing sections. So this is the only T&T solo of which I own three copies.

It was the fourth to be published, and the third one I attempted, which might prompt some people to ask why I'm playing it first. The answer's quite simple. T&T characters can (with some restrictions) be carried across from one adventure to another, and at the start of this one, my character irretrievably loses all his equipment. So rather than accumulate treasure and nifty special weapons in the first few books and then be deprived of it here, I'm starting with nothing (and consequently getting to skip the 'basic equipment acquisition' phase of character creation).

The premise is that my character has been caught breaking the law, and gets to choose between death by torture or a visit to the Royal Khazan Gauntlet of Criminal Retribution and Rehabilitation. This is a trap-packed dungeon, designed as a training ground for adventurers, but too lethal, so rather than have it be a complete waste of money, the authorities turned it into a criminal disposal system.

So let's take a look at the man who will be entering the dungeon today.
Strength: 13 (slightly above average, providing a small bonus in combat)
Intelligence: 9 (low average, not too big a deal here)
Luck: 11 (medium average, nothing special)
Constitution: 9 (low average, significantly reduces the chances of my getting past the first encounter)
Dexterity: 14 (above average, another combat bonus, and a slight improvement in my chances)
Charisma: 13 (slightly above average, but of negligible relevance to this adventure)
Speed: 10 (medium average, almost never matters in solos, but this is one exception)
So slightly above average overall, but probably doomed.

Why doomed? Because two of the guards who escort me to the dungeon ready arrows with ominously stained tips, and as the captain tells me to run, they take aim and fire. And drat it, the saving rolls I need to make to avoid being hit aren't on Dex as I thought, but on Luck and Speed, neither of which are that impressive.

I fail the Luck roll by 4. A string of doubles (doubles are good for you) enables me to beat the Speed roll by 22. But that failed roll means that one of the arrows hits me, costing me 10 points of Con. And I only had 9 to start with, so my adventure comes to an abrupt end.

Well, I was right when I said this might not take long. One for the 'replay at some later date' pile, then.


  1. I love hearing how people got hold of their gamebooks and the memories and associations they have with them. I must post something about my own experiences on the Unofficial forum.

    I only ever had two of the T&T books, in one volume (The Amulet of the Salkti and the Arena of Khazan). I haven't looked at them in about 15 years, but I remember not being that taken by them (I only owned them because a guy in my class at school was given them by his sister for his birthday but he decided they didn't fit with his Christian views, so he gave them to me, presumably considering me to be a lost soul already).

    1. Being a Christian hasn't discouraged me from owning Amulet, but I can see how some might have issues with bits of it. Still, that's a topic better reserved for another entry.