Alexander Scott's RPG Maelstrom was originally released by Puffin books in 1984. It's set in the 16th century, and the rulebook includes a solo adventure (somewhat uninspiredly entitled A Solo Adventure) to help familiarise players with the system. I know I attempted it back in the eighties, and got at least as far as a fight with a guard in a maze, but I'm not sure I've ever won it by the rules.
My only other memory relating to ASA is the attention that one of my friends gave to the big unreachable section. While this wasn't the first solo to include a 'there is no way of getting to this paragraph, so you must be reading sections at random, you bad person' paragraph, it attains some notability by having so much unreachable material: in addition to the section that says there's no way of getting to it, there's a loop of sections, all unreachable except from within that loop, that has 'you' endlessly walking along a corridor, finding precious stones, being injured by hitting your head on a low ceiling, and seeing signs warning against reading paragraphs you can't get to. The 'you cannot get to this section' section even points out the inaccessibility and inescapability of the corridor loop. All in all, this material constitutes around 5% of the sections. There must have been a better way of bringing the number of sections to a nice round 160.
Characters are built rather than rolled up. There are 9 basic attributes (yes, that is a lot), each starting at 30, and I get an additional 50 points to distribute among them, which means that my starting scores average out at just over 35½ each. The value of an attribute is the percentage chance of my succeeding at any challenge based on that attribute, so a totally balanced character has almost a 2/3 chance of failing at every trial faced. So I'm not expecting to win this one.
Based on what I can remember of the actual adventure, I'm tailoring my character to make him a little more adept where I think it's most likely to matter. So he winds up as:
Attack Skill 40
Defence Skill 40
He earns his living as an assassin, as the solo is only for assassins, so any other profession would take me straight to the 'Nothing happens. Now make an assassin character and stop messing about' ending.
One miserable evening, I am making my way home from my cover job (having a more respectable secondary profession helps avoid awkwardness at social gatherings when someone asks, "So what do you do?") when a carriage comes straight for me. I dodge out of the way, and the carriage comes to a halt. Two men get out of it and grab me. Combat can be a pretty tortuous process in the Maelstrom system, and I'm not going to get far through the adventure by resisting my would-be employer's 'invitation', so I let the rogues manhandle me into the carriage.
The interior is quite plush, and there are curtains to keep me from seeing where I'm being taken. Leaping out of a moving vehicle isn't a particularly clever thing to do, even pre-internal combustion engine, so I sit back and enjoy being out of the cold and the wet. Eventually the carriage stops in a courtyard and, after relieving me of my possessions, four guards escort me to a room where a masked man sits on a chair, resting one hand on a wooden lever.
The masked man states that he wishes me to dispose of one Magnus Brote, a tax collector and merchant. I accept the commission, partly because that's the whole point of the adventure, and partly because I know that if I refuse, he'll pull the lever to open a trapdoor which will drop me into the crocodile pit. No, I have no idea how someone in Tudor England is able to maintain a crocodile pit for dropping people into. And now would not be a good time to start asking silly questions.
I am given 10 shillings and a dagger, and led back to the carriage for another ride. Ten minutes later, the carriage stops and I am thrown out into a cobbled street. The carriage departs again and I look around. Convenient signs indicate a nearby apothecary's shop and the home of Magnus Brote.
Entering the shop, I resist the temptation to sample the contents of a random jar (guess how well that would turn out), and ring the bell on the counter. The apothecary claims to know why I'm here, and offers to sell me a suitable poison for 20 shillings. I'm going to have to find some more money. I remembered as much from playing the adventure before, but it's good to know how much extra I need before I come back.
Given the choice between entering Brote's house and wandering off down the street, I pick the option more relevant to my mission. Can't remember what happens if I head elsewhere, but it's not likely to be good. As I approach the door, an old man welcomes me, hands me a compass and a leather case, and tells me that I'll find the merchant in the dining-hall. The people round here seem very well-informed about my mission, don't they?
He leaves me in a corridor with doors at all cardinal points of the compass. I start with the east one, which leads to a large hallway, heated by a fire. Again there are exits in all four directions, and I also have the option of throwing myself into the fire. The adventure's not that bad yet.
Behind the south door is a flight of stairs. Best to stay on the ground level for now. I'm pretty sure I can retrace my steps any time I like (except that I'll need a house key before going back out onto the street, as the old man won't be there to let me in again). East again, then. I'm starting to get tired of corridors with four exits, so I'll keep quiet about my wanderings until I find something else of note.
Like the guardroom I enter a couple of doors on. The guard attacks, and he's well-armed and alarmingly competent, so I'm probably dead. Combat is turn-based, with Speed determining the order in which the fighters strike. The attacking combatant has to roll against Attack Skill. If that roll is successful, the opponent gets to roll against Defence Skill, and only takes damage if they fail that roll. This set-up, combined with the competence level of the average Maelstrom character, can lead to numerous rounds in which the fighters either fail to hit their opponent or have their attacks blocked, which is about as fun as that sounds. Still, the guard has scores of 71 and 82 in the relevant attributes, so this fight should be over fairly quickly.
I was overly optimistic. After five rounds, I've been injured once and the guard is unscathed. By the end of round ten, I've sustained a second blow and still failed to hurt the guard. Thankfully, after that the guard gets better, and hits me in rounds eleven and twelve, rendering me unconscious, after which he runs me through.
So, a pretty dismal failure, then. The slim possibility of my one day making a second attempt at this adventure for the blog keeps me from revealing the insane twist in the victory section here, but rest assured, it's gloriously absurd.
As you may have gathered, I'm not a big fan of Maelstrom. Still, it was rereleased a few years ago, which suggests that a significant number of people must have enjoyed it, so it was evidently a success on some level. And there's far, far worse stuff out there.