Wednesday, 5 December 2012

I Hate People When They're Not Polite


Issue 4 of Warlock featured the winner of issue 1's 'write a mini-adventure' contest, The Dervish Stone, by Paul Struth (with uncredited inspiration from George Lucas). My primary memory from back when I originally got this issue is of writing in to the magazine to point out that several sequences in TDS were more than slightly similar to scenes from a couple of Star Wars films and Raiders of the Lost Ark (and to express dissatisfaction with the largely uninformative nature of that issue's Profile on Iain McCaig). As for my first attempt at the adventure itself, I remember nothing. The Adventure Sheet has been filled out in pencil, but I suspect that that was for a later try, as I can't imagine having lasted long enough to acquire all the equipment listed on it.

There's an introductory paragraph telling of a legendary and long-lost diamond, known as the Stone of Shanhara in memory of the dervish who originally discovered it. Slightly awkwardly, section 1 precedes the penultimate sentence of this introduction (and, presumably, also the 'Equipment' section of the rules - or did I already have 20 Gold Pieces on me before finding an identical sum at the start of my adventure?), so I'm told of my discovery prior to making it.

It might have been advisable to fudge character creation again, as there are some nasty fights in here. But with my rolls, I wouldn't have been able to create someone that much better than I got anyway:
Skill 8
Stamina 19
Luck 9
My Skill would be a bit higher, my Stamina a little lower, but I'm not sure it would make that much of a difference.

I am/was heading for the town of Alasiyan for unspecified reasons, when I sit/sat on a dagger that has/had somehow wound up buried point upwards. Digging to uncover it also exposes/exposed some bones, some armour, and a chest bearing the name Jakor One-Eye, which contains/contained the aforementioned money and a parchment. The message on this parchment is what prompts/prompted me to embark on a quest to find the Stone, though it's not actually all that informative. The introduction mentioned legends, implying that people who've heard of the Stone already know that it is in the Lost Cave of the Dervishes, so the only additional information provided by the dying-but-determined-to-pass-on-his-knowledge Jakor is that the cave is 'somewhere in Twin Sun Desert'. Well, I guess that narrows it down to just several thousand square miles, but it's still not a lot to go on.

The message ends by warning me to 'beware The Guardian', which is a little odd, as I'd say that the Daily Mail and The Sun are both much more toxic newspapers.

By this point in the narrative the intro and the section have synced up, and I must decide whether or not to look for the Potion that Jakor claimed to have hidden in a rock cleft. None too surprisingly, I do, finding a bottle marked 'Control Human' and getting bitten by a small lizard for my troubles.

Proceeding to Alasiyan, I am stopped by Guards who want to search my backpack, so I use the Forc Potion to persuade them that there's no need. A bit of a waste, but that's the only chance I'll get to use it, fighting the Guards could wind up costing me more Stamina than the lizard bite, and submitting to the search would result in the confiscation of my Potion of Fortune. Thwarting the Guards in this manner would allow me to add 1 Luck, were it not for the fact that I've had no opportunity to lose any Luck yet, and the rules do contain the standard ban on exceeding your Initial score unless specifically instructed to do so.

In the town I see a Nomad telling tales of life in the Desert, but the only thing I learn from him is that he has things for sale. I buy a sword, a knife, and a capsule of poison gas. He's also selling a glass eye, but I can't afford everything, and based on my last attempt at the adventure, I think I'll be better off with the other items. Both edged weapons are magical, and the gas is self-explanatory (and a nasty weapon, but potentially my best chance of avoiding having to fight a Skill 12 opponent).

A large house with Hobgoblin guards attracts my attention for no very good reason. One of the guards tells me that it's the Governor's house, and I'm not allowed in without an appointment. I admit that I don't have one, and he's quite abrupt with me. And apparently I'm the sort of character who considers it a mortal insult to be told to 'stop wasting my time', so I waste the guards instead, taking a few wounds in the process. One of them has a key, which unlocks the door of the house he was guarding.

Investigating sounds of singing and laughter from behind a door, I find more Hobgoblins. One of them throws a bone at me, and I have to waste a point of Luck avoiding taking negligible Stamina damage from it. The fight isn't much trouble, partly because the Hobgoblins attack one at a time. Well, I assume they do - the text doesn't specify, and the rules say nothing about fighting multiple opponents simultaneously.

Up the stairs I see a fat, well-dressed man with what appears to be a Hobgoblin at his side. I enter the room, and the man shoots me with a bolt of lightning and sets his guard, actually a Troll/Hobgoblin/Ghoul crossbreed known as a Thoul, on me. And whatever grotesque process is used to create such things ensures that the Ghoul's 'paralyse any opponent with the fourth blow' ability is retained, as a result of which I come to a rather nasty end here.

To add insult to injury, I've just taken a peek at what would have happened if I'd defeated the hybrid and its master, which would have been... getting some more money and a minor attribute bonus. I had assumed that the house was a place where I could acquire an item that would prove useful or essential at a subsequent stage of the quest, but no, it's just an irrelevant aside.

An immoral one, too: when The Warlock of Firetop Mountain did the 'break into a man's home, kill him and his staff, and steal all their money' thing, there was some tenuous justification for the quest provided by the rumours about the Warlock's misdeeds. Here, I go in knowing only that the occupant of the house is the Governor (so this is about robbing and killing a local authority figure) and if I do kill him (potentially creating a power vacuum and plunging the town into anarchy) I gain a point of Luck for having done so well.

I was expecting to have some ethical issues when I got to Seas of Blood, but at least that book doesn't hide the fact that its protagonist is a villain. This adventure effectively makes out that there's something heroic about committing felonies in the interests of acquiring valuables (and possibly also fame). I don't imagine it's ever actually inspired anyone to try housebreaking or murder in the real world, but it's still about being a sort of person I have no desire to even play at being. There are worse-written, more unplayable, and more frustrating FF adventures, but this might have just qualified as the one I like least.

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