Monday, 4 March 2013

Don't Let the City Steal Your Soul

For many years after leaving Swansea, where I'd gone to university, I maintained strong ties with friends there. Not being a driver, I had to use public transport to visit those friends, and going by coach meant almost an hour's wait for a connection in Birmingham. This was made more bearable by the fact that there's a rather good second-hand bookshop around five minutes' walk from the coach station, and there used to be a gaming shop called Dungeons and Starships. D&S closed down some years ago, but it provided some good browsing opportunities before then. And it was there that I acquired my first copy of the T&T solitaire adventure City of Terrors. It was the bowdlerised Corgi Books version, which I'd never bought back when I was first into the series because I'd only ever seen it cellophane-bound with the Complete Rule Book and Game Guide, of which I already had a copy, and I wasn't prepared to pay for a duplicate copy of the CRBaGG just for the sake of acquiring CoT. The copy in D&S was on its own, so I bought it and spent some of the next leg of the coach journey flicking through it.

Some years later I tracked down a copy of the Flying Buffalo edition on eBay. It's from the third printing, and mentions minor changes having been made between the first and second editions. I'm guessing that they don't include the escape option added by Ken St. Andre in the situations where he thought author Michael Stackpole was being a bit too harsh, as that strikes me as more than just a 'minor' change, but cannot speculate on what those changes might actually have been.

This is the first T&T solo to be set in an urban environment rather than one big dungeon (or equivalent) or complex of micro-dungeons. St. Andre's preface says that there are 23 possible adventures contained within it, and if I remember rightly, the text allows for more informed choices - no rolling three dice to see where I end up, or arbitrarily choosing between functionally identical doors. Which probably just means that I get some small say in how I wind up dying - the likelihood of surviving is as low as ever (Mr. St. Andre claims that his escape option turns a 100% chance of death into just a 95% likelihood of perishing).

It doesn't help that I got below-average rolls when creating my character for this adventure.
Strength: 12
Intelligence: 7
Luck: 10
Constitution: 13
Dexterity: 13
Charisma: 6
Speed: 6
I'd wanted a Wizard character, as I think there's one instance where I need to be one to acquire an important item, but this chap just isn't smart enough. I could boost his IQ by making him an Elf, but that would take a hefty bite out of his Constitution. Oh, and his starting gold is abysmal, too. All the more so when the adventure obliges me to give the hotel clerk a hefty bribe. I think my best option is dual-wielding daggers: a Misericorde and a Katar together are slightly more effective than the best weapon I could buy using my full starting gold, and leave just enough change for clothes, footwear and the obligatory ten-foot rope.

For no very good reason the adventure starts on page 33. I'm in the city square, near the hotel, and can either leave the island on which the city of Gull is situated (which would be a little premature at this stage) or go exploring. I think this counts as an intersection of roads, so I have to encounter a Wandering Person (Gull is too civilised for Wandering Monsters).

Great. Zaarg the Vampire. Who attacks on sight, and is just powerful enough that I have precisely zero chance of injuring him, and a 1/279,936 chance of taking no damage each round. It should come as no great surprise that I lose the fight. To add insult to injury, my character now becomes one of Zaarg's vampiric minions, and joins the Wandering People list, with enhanced stats that make him almost as lethal as his new boss. Any time I return to this adventure, at every major junction my new character will have a 1/11 chance of being attacked by the minor killing machine that started out as one of my weakest characters.

Not as successful a trip as the one on which I got the book, then.

Incidentally, I shall be playing a rather unusual T&T solo in four weeks' time, and it's one that could benefit from other people's input. If you'd like to contribute to what could be my strangest adventure ever, drop me a line within the next couple of weeks.

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