Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I Have This Terrible Feeling of Déjà Vu

Games Workshop took over publishing Warlock magazine from issue 6, expanding its scope to cover non-FF books, bringing in some new regular features, increasing the amount of advertising and changing the font of the text. The difference was quite startling at the time. Still, the mini-adventure, which appears to be another runner-up from the issue 1 competition, was more than traditional enough to diminish the shock.

The basic premise of The Dark Chronicles of Anakendis, by Andrew Whitworth, is something of a hybrid of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and City of Thieves. Villagers live in fear of the evil wizard who lives in a nearby cave system. Recently he sent an envoy to make demands of them (not just the headman's daughter, but two maidens a week (has he no understanding of the basic practicalities of supply and demand?)), and is periodically sending vicious hounds to attack them until they accede.

Based on my almost-too-short-to-be-worth-linking-to previous playthrough, I may indulge in a little fudging at character creation. Yup, if that 1 were to go on Skill, I wouldn't last long. So I allocate the dice to produce
Skill 11
Stamina 17
Luck 10
No idea how I'll fare, since I'm pretty sure the abysmal attempt linked above is the only time I've played this adventure in at least 20 years. Still, part of the purpose of this blog is to get me playing the ones I've neglected, so off I go...

I reach the cave entrance, go in, and soon get to a junction. Turning left, I soon reach an icy cave, which turns out to contain one of this adventure's borrowings from Troughton-era Doctor Who. Okay, so this Ice Warrior is white rather than green, but apart from that the description matches. There is one other significant difference: this Ice Warrior isn't armed with a lethal sonic weapon, as a result of which I have no trouble defeating it.

Also in the cave is a small box, which is locked, but I manage to force it open and find a key carved out of pure ruby inside. One of the other things this adventure has in common with TWoFM is that killing the evil wizard doesn't bring victory in and of itself: it is then necessary to successfully unlock his treasure chest. As I recall, the first time I played this, at my grandparents' home, I failed by using the wrong keys and triggering a lethal trap.

This cave is a dead end, so I have to retrace my footsteps and go the other way (which is nothing like what happens in Firetop Mountain, where it's the right turning at the very first junction that leads to the dead end).  That way leads to the room where my previous attempt at TDCoA ended. This time I ignore the opportunity to get myself killed by another '60s DW monster, and try the west door instead. It leads to a passage that soon turns north, and after a bit, I reach a side turning west. Going west again, I reach a small study containing an empty bookcase and a desk.

I search the desk, finding a Potion of Strength under a pile of paper, which is odd. Then I'm unexpectedly stabbed in the thigh, and become aware that I'm being attacked by an Astromancer. This battle is slightly complicated by the fact that he gets to cast a random spell every other round, so I take a chance on using Luck to hasten his demise.

There's no way on from this room, so I return to the passage. In a change from the FF norm, I'm not forced to continue north, but may return to the room with multiple exits. And then go north from there, admittedly, but the very fact that I can retrace my steps that far is unusual. Sufficiently so that I'll try it.

I reach a crossroads, and try east for a bit of variety. Before long the passage turns north, and passes a door with 'Keep Out' written on it in blood. Behind the door (what adventurer can resist an invitation like that?), I find a rather odd room. The walls are made of capstones (which makes approximately zero sense), two of which look loose. There's also a hole in one wall, just above eye level. The whole set-up smells of a trap or three, but I opt to investigate anyway.

Reaching into the hole, I find it to contain a venomous spider, with a bite more harmful than that of the venomous spider which can bite the hand of an adventurer in Deathtrap Dungeon. Behind the loose capstone to the south is an alcove containing a corpse. The active variety. I try speaking to it, and it complains about its long rest having been disturbed, then asks why I moved the stone. I admit to having been curious, and the Zombie condemns me to death, then emerges from the alcove with the intent of carrying out the sentence. I draw my sword in order to lodge an appeal, and obtain a satisfactory verdict in the (re)trial by combat. The text then decides I've had enough of that room, and forces me to leave.

Before long I reach another door, which leads into a lounge, comfortably equipped with fireplace, bookcase and skeleton. Not wishing to be attacked while investigating the furnishings, I first examine the skeleton, which turns out to be inanimate, and wearing a robe and boots. This being a gamebook, I naturally entertain the possibility of trying on the skeleton's footwear, which turns out to be a wise choice, as I now have a pair of Boots of Springing.

Most of the contents of the bookcase are torn or burnt (now I know Anakendis is evil), but this is where Mr. Whitworth riffed on The Citadel of Chaos, so I can read Secrets of the Caves or Life of Anakendis. The former doesn't mention any combination locks, but does point out that Anakendis' lair is beyond a bottomless chasm spanned by an invisible net. It also states that the catacombs have shrunk, which is a bit strange. Technically, there's nothing to prevent me from reading the other book as well, but I think I'm only supposed to look at one, so I'll leave the biography alone.

The fireplace itself is of little interest, but a ladder leads up the chimney, so I investigate that, climbing up to a small room that contains an Imp. He causes the ladder's rungs to vanish, but I react quickly enough to grab a handhold and pull myself up. The subsequent fight doesn't last long, and the only treasure the encounter nets me is a jewelled ring with no apparent magical properties.

I return to ground level and head north again, reaching a crossroads at which I have no choice but to go straight on. A 'small creature' (such an informative description) emerges from one of the side passages and starts to follow me, and I'm only given the options of ignoring it and attacking it. Reflecting sadly on the high proportion of FF creatures that are hostile, I go for the best form of defence. The creature is terrified, and scurries away, so I sheathe my sword. The creature then returns, introducing itself as Anakendis' servant Granzork, who has been sent to take me to meet his master if that is what I want. Suspecting a trap, I decline, but when he leaves, I discreetly follow him.

Granzork goes through a secret door into a tunnel that leads north-west. There's a door with a barred window at the end of this tunnel, but Granzork ignores it and goes north up an even smaller passage (which suggests to me that the definition of 'end' being used here is a little imprecise). Looking through the window, I see a spiked pit where the floor should be. The small passage becomes smaller as I go up it, and ends (in the more conventional sense of the word) at a door I cannot unlock.

Returning to the previous northbound passage, I find that it forks. Turning left, I reach a room with red sand all over the floor. A quick investigation of the sand turns up a box containing a key made of diamond. Possessing neither a magic rope nor a broom, I then have to walk across the room, and start to sink into the sand. Then I'm attacked by a Sand Squid (makes a change from a Giant Sandworm, though not necessarily a particularly sensible one). Hampered by the sand, I take a fair bit of damage, but ultimately I prevail.

Ploughing on through the sand, I catch my foot on a buried length of rope. Naturally I pull it. It's attached to the box that had the diamond key in (so how come I never noticed it when I found the box on the far side of the room, eh?).

A passage leads north from the room. After a while it's joined by another passage from the south (if I were attempting to map this place, I'd be in tears by now), but I just keep going forwards. The passage eventually opens out into a room, but a crystalline statue stands in the way, and it turns to face me as I approach. Similarities to the Crystal Warrior from Caverns of the Snow Witch are probably coincidental, as I'm pretty sure that the preview of that adventure didn't come out until after the competition entry deadline. However, I'm a little sceptical about the Warlock publication dates listed at the FF wiki, partly for reasons I'll go into in a little over a month, and partly because I find it unlikely that the issue 1 competition would have given readers less than a month in which to write a 200-section adventure. Anyway, I now realise that beyond the statue is the aforementioned bottomless chasm (and I initially mistook it for a room?).

Do you need me to point out that this is not a room? 

To get to the chasm I have to fight the statue, which has different stats from the Crystal Warrior and can be harmed by a sword (though only just). While I manage to chip away more than half its Stamina, it manages to get in a few blows against me, and as this is one of those tiresome adventures that only allows the consumption of Provisions when the text explicitly says you can eat, there's been no opportunity since I got a bit mutilated by the Sand Squid, and I used the Potion of Strength to move away from death's door following the spider bite, those few blows are enough to kill me. Well, I'm pretty sure I'd have been doomed on the far side owing to lack of essential items even if the statue hadn't done for me.

Next week, all being well, the FF adventure I shall be playing will be the superhero-themed Appointment With F.E.A.R. When I played it at the unofficial forum, I chose Super Strength as my power. I intend to try something else here. If any readers want to try and sway me in favour of one of the other three (Psi-Powers, Enhanced Technological Skill and Energy Blast), feel free to reply to this post with a vote for your preferred power.


  1. Energy Blast!
    ...or Psi-Powers...
    But no ETS, there was another blog, seven something, where the woman there played with ETS, so let's have some love for the other two!