Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Hunting the Horrible Yeti

There's no real point in my playing the Warlock magazine teaser of Caverns of the Snow Witch here, because it's functionally identical to roughly the first half of the gamebook. The illustrations are different from the ones in the book, and most of them aren't as good, though I do prefer the magazine's Zombie.

Petty pilfering dropped a lot when he was put in charge of the stores.

Apart from that, and the inevitable renumbering of sections, the only differences of which I'm aware are that you can take more items from the storeroom in the book, and if you fare poorly in the fight with the Sentinel in the magazine, you can Escape. Should you do so, it toddles off and activates the Crystal Caverns' self-destruct mechanism, leading to a Test your Luck to establish how big a loser you are (alive but with no treasure, or just plain doomed).

I explained how I acquired the magazine here. All I can remember about playing the adventure is that I failed to acquire the item required to prevent the rat from transforming into the Dragon, and things rather went downhill for me at that point. It may have been a week or more before I was able to get the book - when I was growing up, most Fridays included a visit to the grandparents who lived locally, and I definitely got the magazine en route to their house, but I also remember being at theirs the first time I encountered the Healer's trials, which are only in the book. That must have been at least my second attempt at it, as I know that I had previously missed the Potion that delayed my succumbing to the Death Spell. Given the difficulty level of the adventure, I must have still been playing without dice at that point.

The fact that I have written a sequel to this book for Fighting Fantazine shouldn't dull my critical edge here. I am well aware that the book has some significant flaws, and I will endeavour to dissect the ones my character survives long enough for me to interact with in the usual manner. But I'm unlikely to even get as far as the first mention of the Snow Witch with stats as sub-par as
Skill: 8
Stamina: 16
Luck: 7
The book still makes the claim that on 'the one true' way, even the weakest of characters should have a fair shot, but by this stage, that's just nonsense.

At the start of the adventure, I've somehow managed to get a job as a guard on a trading caravan. Usually this leg of the journey is a quiet one, but not this time, as the sound of a horn indicates trouble at the outpost for which we're headed. Hurrying to investigate, I find the place wrecked, six men dead, and the footprints of something large as the only indication of what caused the destruction. So I report back to Big Jim, the trader, and agree to track down and kill the brute responsible - for a fee. Big Jim is not happy about the sum I name, but there's no way he'll ever have to actually pay up, so he'd be better off worrying about not having a decent fighter available to do the job.

In the morning I set off, soon reaching a crevasse spanned by an ice bridge. Detour around it and run into the book's first double-figure-Skill opponent, or risk the bridge and the not-quite-so-lethal fight? I take a chance on the bridge, and my Luck holds out, so I manage not to slip and fall off. On the far side I encounter a couple of Snow Wolves, which obligingly attack one at a time. Even these low-Skilled beasts manage to gnaw away three quarters of my Stamina.

As I continue my ascent, a blizzard commences. I 'hurriedly cut blocks of ice out of the mountainside and build a makeshift igloo'. Somehow I don't think that Ian Livingstone researched igloo-building all that thoroughly. The exertion forces me to consume two portions of Provisions for no Stamina gain, but the alternative is Skill-sapping frostbite, which would pretty much guarantee my dying in the next fight (whereas it is currently just highly likely that I won't survive), and food is of no use to the dead.

Further on I discover a trapper's hut. Would it have killed Ian to provide a chance to notice it during the blizzard? Inside, I eat some of the trapper's food and grab a couple of weapons (I wonder if Mr. Livingstone's casual attitude to people helping themselves to others' property has changed at all since he became a millionaire). Despite being a spear and a warhammer, the weapons are something of a two-edged sword (if you'll forgive the mangled metaphor). Choices are limited to taking both or neither, and while having one of them can help turn a fight against a foe with 11 Skill into a slightly more manageable battle, possessing the other one forces you into an otherwaise avoidable fight against a different Skill 11 opponent.

Following the trapper's footprints, I find him battling the Yeti I seek. Just how long have they been fighting? He must have left the hut after the blizzard, or snow would have obscured his footprints. Enough time elapsed between his setting out and my finding the hut that he was already out of sight by the time I got there. Add in the time it takes to reheat the cold stew and eat it, then go rummaging through the weapons and select two. As I followed the footprints, I must have gone the exact same way as the trapper - no short cuts - and I was weighed down by the weapons and in unfamiliar territory, while he was on his home turf, so the likelihood of my having travelled more quickly than he did is low. So the trapper must have got here quite a while before I did. But the fight's not yet over.

Moments later it is, as the Yeti strikes a mortal blow, and I decide to see if I can do any better against it. I hurl the spear, and am on target, so the Yeti drops to 'merely' 10 Skill. Which is still enough to ensure that I soon join the trapper as a mangled corpse in the snow.

As predicted, then. Didn't even get half way through the part of the adventure that's in the magazine. And I've had an idea. The thing about gamebooks is that they (usually) allow the reader to have some influence on how things turn out. So why shouldn't this blog do the same? Those of you who are prepared to face the challenge of proving your humanity to blogger's slightly overzealous anti-spam measures get to choose whether this entry is a playthrough of the teaser or the full adventure. If the majority of voters say it's the teaser, I'll have a shot at the book next week (slightly fudging character generation to reduce the likelihood of winding up as Yeti-food again). If most say it's the book, I'll move on to The Seven Serpents. But YOU decide on the subject of next Wednesday's blog post.


  1. Let's stretch the fun, teaser then. But don't go in there with less than a skill 10, that's pointless. You'll still die no matter what you do, but at least we'll see more of the book.

  2. Play it again! This time assume that anyone working as a caravan guard this far north isn't a wuss.

  3. try it again, and as suggested with at least skill 10 .

  4. Yep, play the book next week