Saturday, 11 August 2012

The English Assassin

In gamebook circles, Jamie Thomson is probably best known as one of the writers of the martial arts-themed series The Way of the Tiger, the time travel-based series Falcon and the acclaimed Fabled Lands series. However, before the last of those came out, he wrote the rather less well-known Eternal Champions books, which have a premise that incorporates martial arts and time travel. It has something to do with the Sega game Eternal Champions, which appears to be a Mortal Street Tekken-type slug-fest. And a rogue 'p' has found its way into Thomson's name on the book covers.

First is The Cyber Warriors. No nostalgia about this one, as it was another whimsical eBay purchase. The previous owner wrote on the Adventure Sheet in pencil, naming his character Iron Duke, and either there's been a bit of erasing and overwriting going on, or my predecessor thought that three fours make fourteen.

Not being familiar with the Sega game, I have no idea how much of what's in the book is based on that, and what's been added by Thomson, so I don't know who's to blame for the more ludicrous elements. In the future, the world is largely under the control of one computer, which is seeking to eradicate humanity. Opposing Skynet the Overlord is the Eternal Champion, 'an amalgam of all the masters of the martial arts', who brought 'nine of the greatest warriors in history' to his own time, trained them, and then sent them back to their own times to punch, kick and beat history into a better shape. The Overlord has created evil CyberClone duplicates of the nine and sent them to destroy their human counterparts and stomp on causality until the Eternal Champion is eliminated. So the Eternal Champion is creating an even more perfecter warrior to go back and beat up the CyberClones before they can kill the nine before they can reshape history. And summarising the premise has left me feeling as if I've been hit very hard in the head, so I guess it's effective writing in one regard.

Characters are designed, not rolled up. Six attributes with a base score of 3 in each, and 3 points to add to whichever attributes I choose (though nothing can be raised above 5). I'll push Endurance, Recovery and Equilibrium to 4 each, giving me 12 Life Points. I also get to pick one Special Move (Monkey Heart) and a fighting style (Aikido). I'm also supposed to give my character a name. Not sure if that's a 'name' name (in which case he's John Davidstone for horrifically geeky reasons) or a 'character title' name (might as well go with the title I chose for this entry).

English and deadly
So, this ultimatest warrior who's going to save the not-quite-so-ultimate ones... I'm not him. Not yet. First I have to win a contest. This will sound familiar to anyone who knows The Way of the Tiger reasonably well (oh, and yes, this book also has a 'do not try to emulate the moves described in this book' warning). The principal difference here being that I get to choose between two opponents: a Sumo wrestler and a boxer (bare knuckle, not the canine variety). The book's previous owner took on the Sumo, but based on the in-text description of my favoured style and memories of the fastest way to lose the TWotT introductory fight, I think I'll go for the boxer.

Amusingly and alarmingly, I am informed that this fight will be conducted without mines, buzz-saws or other such amusing extras. Let's hope that this is just a bit of colour to show how hard-core the contests here are, rather than set-up for a, 'Whoops! We just accidentally activated the spikes, flamethrowers, and laser-bearing chaffinches!' announcement once the fight's nearly done.

I don't think a blow-by-blow account of the combat is required. Let's just say that my character is every bit as adept a fighter as I was back in the playground at school. Well, maybe a bit more proficient, as he did manage to land one blow on the boxer before getting his cranium pulverised.

At least these speedy defeats don't take long to write up. And I didn't get far enough to have to mention a character whose name might have attracted the wrong kind of Google attention (being associated with a particular subtype of fan fiction, (and also the stage name of a member of Guns N' Roses, though that's less problematic if you don't allow your mind to wander anywhere too alarming)).

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