Monday, 8 April 2013

The Affair Had About It Much of the Improbable

Walker Vaning's Sorcerer Solitaire is the first of the regular Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures with which I had no history prior to acquiring a copy as part of an eBay lot. I have vague memories of flicking through the adventure in the central library, which suggests that the postman didn't deliver the parcel containing it, so I had to collect it from the depot.

As the title suggests, this adventure is exclusively for wizard characters. There are certain minimum stat requirements for wizards, so to ensure that I'd have a suitable character for it, I rolled up two characters when preparing to play The Legend of the _____(adj.) _____(noun)  around a week ago, and saved the one better suited to Sorcerer Solitaire for today. He has:
Strength 16
Intelligence 12
Luck 10
Constitution 10
Dexterity 12
Charisma 11
Speed 12
Owing to the cost of a magic staff, and the risk of having home-made ones explode, he'll have to make do without one, and hope not to need to cast Take That, You Fiend too many times in quick succession.

The author refrains from opening with, 'It is a dark and stormy night', though that would accurately describe the set-up, and to be honest, 'It's an evil night out' isn't a whole lot better. I'm outdoors, hearing wolves howl and occasionally glimpsing prowling creatures when the full moon peeks through the clouds, and suddenly notice that I'm close to a large mansion 'which reeks of rotting corpses'. Heavy iron bars seal the windows, and the front door is locked, but a Knock-Knock spell gets it open (with the obligatory sinister creak).

I step inside, and catch sight of a glowing skull, which triggers my innate ability to sense magic (just in case I'd been about to assume a perfectly naturalistic explanation for the glowing). The door slams and locks behind me. Doors lead to left and right, and behind the skull is a staircase. I decide to take a closer look at the skull.

That can't do any harm, can it?

The glow intensifies, and I am transformed. If I'd had any attributes above 50, they would have been reduced, but as it is, I only get to experience the (probably) beneficial effect, whereby any stat below 12 is rerolled on 5 dice. This pushes my Luck up to 17, my Constitution to 12 and my Charisma to 16. The skull then becomes a burnt-out cinder. And hanging around getting enhanced has taken long enough that natural healing has restored some of the Strength I spent getting the door open.

I go right, finding myself in a darkened corridor. There's a light at the far end, and I can hear something. Annoyingly, the author doesn't seem to have considered the possibility that I might have brought along conventional means of making light in order to conserve Strength, so unless I want to blunder around in the dark, I have no choice but to cast Will-o-wisp in order to make my finger light up. My middle name starts with T, so I grew tired of E.T. jokes way back in the 1980s (and they got worse once I had a classmate whose first name was Elliott), but I have no great desire to stumble into a trap that would be obvious to anyone who could see, so I'd better cast the spell.

Nothing bad happens as I head along the corridor, which leads to a room containing a heavily-scarred and foul-smelling Rogue. He asks me to teach him the TTYF spell but, concerned that he might try to test it out on me, I politely decline. My Charisma is now high enough that I have the minimum possible chance of failing the Saving Roll to mollify him, and that approach will also net me more Experience points. Yep, a comfortable success, so he lets me pass.

As I leave the room, I find a jewel on the floor. That can go into the magic staff fund. Then I'm in another darkened corridor, and get the sensation that something is watching me. A cold, damp breeze makes me shudder. Time for another WoW spell, I suppose. And that was a wise choice, as the sudden illumination scares off the ghouls that were sneaking up on me, and I get a hefty experience bonus for resolving the situation so painlessly.

Suddenly it gets dark. Something is negating the effect of the spell. The torch the book didn't previously acknowledge I could be carrying won't work either, and I sense something evil close by. I can either grope around in the dark or try another spell. Not being able to see anything, I doubt that anything other than Oh-Go-Away will be particularly useful here. And that won't work on opponents with a Monster Rating of 45 or more. Then again, any foe that tough would be likely to flatten me in the first round of a fight even under optimal circumstances.

As I cast the spell, a clammy tentacle wraps around my ankle and the soulsucker starts to drain my bodily heat. The spell takes effect, and the monster is scared away - just. It wouldn't have been powerful enough if I hadn't had my Luck and Charisma enhanced by the skull. I am teleported to somewhere that seems safe. Best not to push my luck, though, so I only take a short rest before moving on.

It appears that Castle of Lost Souls wasn't the first adventure in which the layout varies depending on decisions made. At any rate, I get the impression that the duration of my rest determined where I wound up next. Which turns out to be a bat-filled room with a guano-coated floor, lit by luminescent fungi. Close to the cave exit I find three clumps of mushrooms or toadstools, one of them covered in dead flies, another barely visible beneath the mound of dead insects and bats, and oozing purple filaments. There's no way of picking mushrooms from one clump without crushing the other two, so if I'm reckless enough to try eating any, I only get one shot. I take a chance on the ones that don't have anything dead on them, and, while bitter, they're nutritious and put me in such a good mood that I get a Charisma bonus.

Moving on before the stink of bat guano gets too much for me, I enter a room with two exits in the wall on my left, and a giant green nostril in the wall on my right. I wonder if it was inspired by immature extrapolation from the giant green hand that grabbed the Starship Enterprise in an episode of sixties Star Trek. The nostril is allergic to adventurers, and sneezes, blowing me through a random exit. This place is getting odd.

Somehow, while being nasally propelled onwards, I managed to notice a sign on the door reading 'Monster Reconditioning and Experimentation'. The room in which I arrive contains a small man in a lab coat, as well as anachronistic-looking technology and dead monsters. Upon catching sight of me, the technician panics and flees, and the giant Gobbler on which he was experimenting goes out of control and starts to eat its surroundings. I'll get eaten (as will the entire house) unless I can figure out which of the five buttons on the console can avert disaster. The buttons are labelled (though 'label' is misspelled in the book), but not in a language I can understand, so I'll have to go with the colour coding.

Red tends to be associated with danger, so that might mean 'press in case of emergency'. But the Gobbler is described as being brown, which I was taught is the traditional product of combining CMY colours, so maybe white, being the equivalent in RGB, will neutralise it... Or blue might freeze it, or yellow give it a fatal dose of tartrazine, or green fill it with environmental awareness until it stops its rampant consumption of global resources - in a place this loopy, anything is possible. I take a chance on white. A sign lights up, reading 'Out Of Order' (how come that one I can understand?). One second chance... Red!

It releases a second Gobbler. They eat each other out of existence. And I don't think pressing buttons constitutes strenuous activity, even when done in a panic, so Strength recovery continues apace. Then I get told I'm allowed to sleep here and return to full Strength, so the bookkeeping has been a little unnecessary. I also get to loot as much as I can carry, so I'd better pay some attention to the encumbrance rules that haven't been worth bothering with up until now. Let's see, I can carry up to 1600 units. What I had on me comes to 706. A bag of gems and all the gold in sight bring me up to 966, so I can manage up to 63.4 gold pieces' worth of silver. For simplicity's sake, make it just 63.

While I'm asleep, guards pick me up and put me outside, allowing me to keep everything I found in there. Very obliging chaps: if I'd been a vampire, they'd even have gone to the effort of depositing me in a shady spot to keep me from frying in the light of the sun. And unless I want to wait for nightfall and go back to the start of the adventure, that's game over. Another success, then, and I'm almost half way to levelling up. Besides which, I can now afford a staff and some better armour. This character will be returning, so I'd better give him a name. And since I didn't get to use all the ones offered up for use in TLot(a)(n), I shall pick one of them. In view of the increasingly surreal nature of this adventure, Incredulous Godfrey seems to fit rather well.

It'll be a long while before I get there, but the last of the main run of Flying Buffalo T&T solos included a revised edition of Sorcerer Solitaire. If the changes are as extensive as in, say, the Warlock magazine variants of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and House of Hell, I'll have a go at that for the blog as well.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! Incredulous Godfrey is the name of a character I use to play D&D online, so it's fun to see him have this weird parallel existence.