Monday, 19 November 2012

To Mock Your Own Grinning

It's been a while since I've had cause to mention the job lot of Tunnels & Trolls solo dungeons I got back at the start of the nineties, but now the October thematic detour is over, the next title in sequence is another that I got in that batch. Keith A. Abbott's Weirdworld (revised and edited by Ugly John Carver) is another 'enter somewhere strange and dangerous to find treasure' adventure, set in the Madhouse of Maximillian the Magnificent, also known as Weirdworld.

I know I had a bit of a look through this one at some point, though I remember very little of its content. One aspect I do recall will be addressed straight after I've generated my character. Everything else that persists in my memory is in some way associated with the Madhouse lavatory. I can't be certain that this is the very first gamebook ever to feature toilet facilities, but it must be among the earliest to do so.

There's no mention of level restrictions, so I'm hoping that it's survivable by inexperienced characters (not that I have made it through any of the explicitly low-level T&T solos I've attempted to date, but I would prefer it to be at least theoretically possible, however unlikely, to make it out alive for once). I roll up a slightly below-average character, but making him a Dwarf rather than a human improves him to:
Strength 26
Intelligence 9
Luck 10
Constitution 16
Dexterity 11
Charisma 5
Speed 7
It's convenient that my best roll was for Strength, as this is another 'Warriors only' solo. Mind you, unlike most such adventures, this one does provide the option of having Maximillian perform, in effect, a sorcerous lobotomy on magic-using characters to render them eligible. As I recall, the process is not reversible, and any hostile reaction to having intellect transformed into muscle is met with a lethal response. Having more brawn than brains from the outset saves me the hassle of dumbing down.

I enter the Madhouse, and a stone block drops to keep me from going back the way I came. The room I've just entered contains a selection of weapons, a shield, a chest, a skull and some bones, and a voice tells me I may take any one item if I wish. In case it's not a double bluff, I pick the skull (most of the items are so obviously useful that there must be a trick, and the other bones are too nondescript). And either I'd subconsciously remembered this bit, or I'm on the same kind of wavelength as Mr. Abbott, as the next section asks if I picked the skull or something else.

The skull talks, introducing itself as Fred the Head and asking to be my friend. On the off-chance that he might turn out to be a useful companion, I retain him. And I won't find out whether he's a help or a hindrance until I'm attacked, so whatever he does, he's no guide to the place.

The next room looks like a classic mad scientist's laboratory. Smashing it up seems inadvisable (besides which, I lack the torch and pitchfork that are de rigueur for any such activity), and sampling the end product of whatever chemical reaction is going on here isn't likely to be smart, either. Without going into detail, I will say that this section might link up with what I remember of the adventure.

There's no turning back, but two exits lead north. I try the corridor, which is exactly as high as I am tall (three foot six, according to the dice). Blocking my way is a foot-tall leprechaun armed with a pencil as tall as he is. He draws a line and dares me to cross it.

No, nothing remotely suspicious here.

I attack the leprechaun, who turns out to have a triple-figure Dexterity (so he gets more than +100 on his combat rolls), while his pencil has a magic eraser that does horrendous amounts of damage. It's not all bad news: Fred spits a tooth at him, and has a good chance of doing lethal damage. Still, the text could do with being a lot clearer about how this attack works. There's no mention of the rules governing a missile attack, which has its good points as well as bad. A leprechaun-sized target isn't particularly easy to hit, and as Fred has no listed Dexterity, I suppose it would have to be my decidedly average score, if any, that got used to determine whether or not the tooth hit, and the likelihood of success is not high. But still a lot better than my chances if the tooth-spitting does not constitute a missile attack, because if that's the case, either Fred is just another combatant on my side, and I'll need to score something in the region of 200 on 6 dice for us to survive, or the tooth gets counted as a kind of blasting spell, in which case I still need to roll 200-odd on 6d6 to not get killed, but there's a 50% chance that the leprechaun dies as well.

So I guess Fred and I get rubbed out, but it's possible that the leprechaun bites the dust.

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