Monday, 6 May 2013

A Great Big Threatening Button

The way Tunbridge Wells has grown over the centuries, the High Street is pretty much on the periphery of the town centre, and it's on the far side from the parental home or my secondary school. Consequently, I had to make a bit of an effort to get to it, and after the bookshop where I got Scorpion Swamp (among other books) closed down, I didn't bother that often. But one day in 1990, probably during summer, I wandered down the High Street, and found that a discount bookshop had opened up since I was last there. I popped in for a browse, and in a room at the back, on one of those rotating wire cage bookstands, were almost all of the Corgi Books Tunnels & Trolls solos I lacked.

These were all books containing two adventures, and I was a little annoyed at the pairings. I already had Flying Buffalo editions of a couple of the adventures contained within these books, but they weren't in the same volume. Thus, if I wanted to get Sword for Hire, which was new to me, I'd have to buy a book that also contained an adventure I already had. And one of the other volumes was similarly 50% material I already owned. But, it being a discount bookshop, the books were cheap, and I decided that it was worth having the duplicates in order to get the adventures I lacked.

Nowadays, having become aware of the differences between some editions, I have a complete set of the Corgi and FB versions. And two FB editions of Naked Doom because of a half-dozen or so sections that were added to that adventure for the second edition. Funny how our attitudes to some things change with the passage of time.

So, today I'm playing Sword for Hire, by James Wilson. Funnily enough, I got so distracted by one of the other solos I acquired that day, I never did have a proper go at it. I know the basic premise, the fact that a sidekick is provided for much of the adventure, and a couple of things that it would not be wise to do, but that's it. It's intended for fighters, so I think I'll take a chance on reusing my character from The Legend of the _____(adj.) _____(noun), who still has:
Strength 9
Intelligence 10
Luck 9
Constitution 13
Dexterity 8
Charisma 9
Speed 11
The meagre spoils of his previous adventure aren't enough to pay for any new equipment worth having, but if he survives here, he may be able to better equip himself.

A visit to the Blue Frog (a tavern to which Mr. Wilson will be returning in a later adventure) provides me with the knowledge that the powerful wizard Mongo the Dark wants to hire a swordsman for a few days. He offers good rates, but nobody who's accepted the job offer has ever been seen again.

Shortly afterwards, I am ejected from the premises owing to a shortage of funds (which doesn't go well with the Introduction's advising readers to have a little cash on their characters for this adventure, though for this character there is a work-around, as TLot(a)(n) did state that many would consider the coins bearing Herbert Montague's visage to be cursed, so it's not unreasonable to assume that the Innkeeper objected to my attempting to pay with 'tainted' currency).

I ask a heavily armoured woodcutter for directions to Mongo's tower, and get directed to a path with bricks of yellow. I wonder if Mongo really is as powerful as he makes out. Mind you, even if his level's only a tenth of what he claims, he could still probably vaporise me with a single Take That, You Fiend spell, so antagonising him in an attempt to find out seems inadvisable.

The tower looks like the sort of place where a real villain would live, and appears to have no entrances at or near ground level. There is a brass gong, but the bleached bones scattered around it suggest that it summons something rather more harmful than J. Arthur Rank. So I try calling out, and asking for Mongo.

Not that Mongo

A concealed door opens, and a green-robed figure looks me over, concludes that I'll do, and invites me in for tea. He explains that when he acquired the tower, he never got the plans for the sub-basement, and as he's too busy to explore it himself, he wants me to map it. If I find the exit, I can keep all the treasure I find down there. If I return to the entrance, Mongo will let me keep half of the loot I acquired in return for my partial map.

As I have no poison or magic items, the fact that none of them will work in the sub-basement doesn't really matter to me. Or rather, it works in my favour: to compensate for this, Mongo provides me with a rare toxin and a specially enchanted weapon that will be effective here. Indeed, there's a choice of weapons, though my Strength isn't high enough to enable me to wield the axe, so I have no choice but to pick the sword. I'm fine with that, as it's going to do more damage than my own sword most of the time, and protects me better than my armour. Also, if I ever lose it, I can get it to return to my hand by loudly uttering the incantation, "HELP!" If I find the dungeon exit (evidently 'sub-basement' was a euphemism), I can keep the sword.

Mongo also offers me any standard adventuring equipment I might find handy. Amusingly, the Corgi edition directs readers to the list of weapons and armour in the Rules section just after stating that I can pick anything except for weapons or armour. As I'm playing the FB edition, and just referring to the Corgi one to see if any interesting edits have been made, I get to refer to the rather more useful list of General Supplies in the rulebook. I swap my hemp rope for silk (much lighter), replace sandals with boots, and get myself a compass and a lantern.

Now I'm decently equipped, Mongo leads me to a door. Beyond it are steps down to another door. I descend and go through, missing out on some insight or warning thanks to an abysmal Intelligence roll. The room beyond contains a Rock Demon, leaning against a rune-inscribed keg. He says his name's Six Pack, and he's lost. He doesn't want to encounter Mongo for fear that the wizard will confiscate the self-refilling keg he found down here, and thus offers to accompany me as I seek the exit. Even if I had the sort of stats that would be required to have any chance of defeating Six Pack in battle, I wouldn't do anything liable to upset him, because I remember that he's about to become my sidekick, and any attempt at avoiding this development is liable to result in my brains being transmuted to beer in a keg-related mishap.

We make a deal. Any treasure found is to be divided equally between us (so I'd better find that exit, or my share of the loot's going to be pretty small), and Six Pack will fight alongside me. This significantly improves my chances in battle, more than doubling the damage I can inflict, and halving the hits I take. If he dies, I die, but the likelihood is that I would perish in any fight that caused his death anyway.

Other than the way I came in, there's only a door leading north. It leads to a room with four exits. Six Pack wants to go west. And east. One at a time, eh? Let's try east first. Beyond the door is a glowing corridor, with another door at the far end. My companion isn't so sure about that one, but wants to explore further all the same. There's a chance of running into a wandering monster back in the room with four exits, so I'd rather not turn back just yet.

As we enter the room to the east, the door closes and locks behind us. Six Pack directs my attention to a red button on the east wall, with the glowing words 'PUSH ME' written beside it (surprising that I needed him to point them out to me). I check for concealed exits first, but a lousy Luck roll keeps me from finding anything. Well, I guess I'll have to push the button, then. Six Pack belatedly advises against hasty action (hey, Sixie, you're the one who pointed me at the button in the first place), and the north and south walls start closing in.

I try pushing the button again. A trapdoor opens under Six Pack. I have no idea what he finds at the bottom of it, because the walls crush me before I can decide whether or not to risk diving after him. Well, that was arbitrary. That's the first time in quite a while that I've failed in a manner that didn't involve dice.

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