Monday, 17 June 2013

The Sea Calls to Me

I don't have any T&T characters experienced enough to send through Sewers of Oblivion, the 13th of the Flying Buffalo solos, so next up is G. Arthur Rahman's Sea of Mystery. This was among the T&T solos stocked in Dungeons and Starships the time I found the Corgi City of Terrors there - in fact, it was the only one they had (other than City) that was new to me, so I bought a copy and looked through it on the coach. Later, after I'd got back to Hull, I rolled up a character and played it, and actually survived.

That copy was from one of the later print runs, with pages sized A4 or thereabouts, and a colour cover. I subsequently traded or gave that one away, and what I have now is a British first edition, with A5 pages and a monochrome cover. And a former owner has pencilled details of the character types permitted in the adventure on the front cover, presumably to save the effort of having to turn the booklet over and read that information from the back cover.

There are no restrictions on character type, so I'll take the dice as they fall, and choose whatever profession they're best suited to.
Strength: 11
Intelligence: 11
Luck: 14
Constitution: 11
Dexterity: 11
Charisma: 13
Speed: 15
Slightly above-average, then. The rulebook recommends making a Rogue if Luck is the highest of the first three attributes, but Rogues aren't much good in solo adventures, as they need to be taught magic before they can cast spells, and opportunities for learning are pretty scarce when you don't have a GM.

Thinking about some of the oddities of this adventure, I'm leaning more towards making a Wizard. Weird Bermuda Triangle-esque shenanigans might change my weapon into a dagger at any moment, so I wouldn't get the full benefit of the wider range of weapons available to a Warrior, and the Warriors' bonus for wearing armour loses some of its appeal when the unsuitability of armour as a flotation device is taken into account.

So I'm a Wizard. Can't afford a proper magic staff, but there is a spell that can be used to create a makeshift one. In view of the risk of its exploding when first used, I've tested it in advance, casting a Knock Knock spell on my own front door to save the hassle of getting my keys out. And, bearing in mind that many encounters can turn out differently depending on my character's gender, I'm going to randomly determine that to add a bit more variety. Male on an odd number, female on an even. And I get a 4.

Since childhood I've heard tales of the wonders and horrors of the Sea of Mystery, and now I've decided to experience them for myself. So I head to an unspecified Candavan port and spend a while wandering the streets. This leads to a random encounter (there's a lot of randomness in this adventure). Someone recognises me. But as I'm not a Dread Pirate (not yet, at any rate), it's just an acquaintance from the local equivalent of Hogwarts or something, so we say hello, lie about keeping in touch, and go our separate ways.

I don't have enough money to buy passage on a ship, so unless I want to roam the streets until I manage to save a rich man from muggers or get press-ganged (the other possible random encounters here), I shall have to sign on with the disreputable ship that's looking for crew. Or I could leave the adventure altogether, but what would be the point of that?

I'm not certain, but the ship in question might be a pirate ship. Still, beggars can't be choosers. I set sail with them anyway, and the dice determine that this is actually just a regular merchant ship with a dodgy-looking crew. The Sea Sprite isn't transporting a conventional cargo, though. The Iderian coastal cities are under assault from desert tribes, and the wealthier citizens are prepared to pay well for safe passage away. A priest brings a crowd of poor people to the dock, and asks that the Captain take them on board out of charity. I suggest to the Captain that a little humanitarian work might improve his reputation, and find myself jobless.

But not for long, as the priest asks me to help defend the temple. A little perturbed to find that the whim of the strange forces operating here has transformed my dagger into a sabre (which, as a Wizard, I am unable to wield), I nevertheless agree, since the only alternative is stealing a raft. During the next assault, I wind up in combat with a maddened raider. A Take That, You Fiend spell takes the edge off of his initial attack, but also leaves me just weak enough that I wouldn't be able to use my dagger even if it were still a dagger. My options are now somewhat limited: a second TTYF wouldn't quite kill him, but it would leave me too weak to stand up. If I were to ignore the text's insistence that I strike the lethal blow with my unusable-to-me sabre, I'd could either use the dagger anyway, losing further Strength as a result of overexerting myself and, unless I got very lucky, getting carved up over the course of the next few rounds, our I could use my makeshift staff to hit him and die by attrition, since I'd never be able to injure him, but most of the time my armour (I bought a few easy-to-ditch items just in case) would reduce the damage he inflicted to just a few points.

With the dagger I'll have a slim chance, so I'm using that, whether the powers-that-be (as mediated by Mr. Rahman) like it or not. And I roll incredibly low, while the raider gets a double-six, leaving me on the verge of death. One last, pathetic jab, and he runs me through.

The deity whose temple I was defending takes pity on me, and brings me back to life in a new body, back in the port where I started. I'm now a man, though, and I have to reroll everything but Intelligence. My Strength and Constitution have each dropped to 9, Dexterity's down to 10, Charisma is a mere 8, and Speed is 12, but apart from the changed gender and largely inferior physical attributes, I'm still the same person.

Maybe I should name this character Odnalro.

I could quit the adventure now, but they do say, "You have to get back on the horse that threw you," so I guess that means that I must go down to the sea again. Starting funds for my new body are a little lower than for the original, but I buy more or less the same equipment again, the only significant difference being the type of dagger I get. It does slightly less damage, but I'll still be able to use it even after casting a TTYF. Even on my lower-than-before Strength. That's one mistake that I've learned from.

I also make and test out a new staff. One of these days I'll fail the Saving Roll, and then I'll be left wondering what having a home-made magic staff explode when used actually does to a character, as the rulebook doesn't specify.

So, back to the harbour, where I sign on with another dubious-looking Captain. No, the dice indicate that it's the same one. There must have been a few days' wait before the temple was attacked, to give him time to get back here. Still, he's never going to imagine that the slightly weedy, unattractive bloke talking to him is the same person as the tougher, prettier woman he abandoned in Magodha.

Mind you, the Captain's not the man he was. Whether it's a guilty conscience at having refused the refugees, a curse for having done so, or something else entirely, something has made him miserly, surly, and prone to flogging crew members for the slightest offence. He keeps his gold in an iron chest in his cabin.

After an uneventful crossing, he and most of the crew go ashore. I'm not going to push my luck and try taking the money, but I will attempt to jump ship. Alas, one of the other crew left on the ship spots me, and I'm seized. Upon his return, the Captain decides to have me marooned, so the crew row me to a sand bar and abandon me there with just a day's food and water and a stiletto. I don't survive.

That was something of a disappointment. Parts of the adventure (none of which I encountered today) appear to have been inspired by some of William Hope Hodgson's maritime horror stories, of which I am rather a fan, so I'd like to be able to enjoy it, but the actual design is flawed. The random determination of incidents goes a little too far for my liking, and while I can see how the 'Bermuda Triangle-esque effects' of the region could be of use in some situations, having them saddle the player with a weapon that Wizards can't use is a very careless implementation of the gimmick.

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