Wednesday, 10 July 2013

All Fall Down

I bought the 13th (and, as it turned out, final) issue of Warlock magazine in the newsagent's across and down the road from my school, and have a distinct memory of seeing the fake news report of a coup in the Warlock's palace (an indirect and obscure way to announce the discontinuation of the magazine) just after crossing back over the road. On a crossing - I wasn't quite so reckless as to just wander across a busy street with my head stuck in a magazine.

The mini-adventure, Tom Williams' The Temple of the Pharaoh, didn't make much of an impression on me. Proteus' rather good Treasures of the Cursed Pyramid had come out a couple of months before, and TTotP just wasn't as enjoyable as the rival magazine's Egyptian-themed adventure. My first attempt ended with my being captured and chained to a wall by two animated statues (which I'd already destroyed once) as punishment for going back somewhere I'd already been. I can't remember whether I was actually lost or knew I was retracing my steps and had a reason for doing so, but either way, I was not impressed. I didn't even get that far in my previous online attempt.

The adventure is set in the modern day, more or less. I'm an archaeologist, and after a year of unsuccessfully searching for the Temple of Pharaoh Terratakamen (whose nickname, King Terror, has more to do with his conduct than with the start of his full name), I discover a narrow cleft in some cliffs, the only way into a hidden valley that contains the temple I've been seeking. My plane crashes before I can report the discovery, though I survive unharmed, and in this condition:
Skill 12
Stamina 18
Luck 7
Rather than sit around waiting for the inevitable search party to come looking for me, I opt to have a look around the temple, erroneously thinking I'll be the first person to do so in centuries.

The place is in much better condition than I expect, and the door through the gates closes behind me on well-oiled hinges. No handle on this side, of course. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, because even if my character is completely clueless genre-wise, I know what sort of 'fun' to expect here. There are more gates ahead of me (locked), and smaller doors to north and south. Trying to break through the gate by which I came in isn't likely to help (has anyone ever written a gamebook in which trying to flee the adventure right at the start goes well?), and standing around in the gloom seems pretty futile, so I head south.

Beyond the door is a room containing a gold goblet, a bowl of warm gruel, a spear and a coil of rope. I can take just one of them with me (perhaps the express checkout at my local supermarket has an overly strict item limit, and I've become accustomed to only ever getting one thing at a time). The spear's of no use to me as I haven't yet lost any Skill, the bowl has no lid and would be tricky to carry around without spilling its contents, and I'm not sure that there's anything to gain by carting valuables around, so I take the rope.

Still reluctant to stand around doing nothing, I check out the north door next. This leads to a room with illustrated walls, the pictures showing people in ancient Egyptian garb torturing and killing others. Some of the victims appear to be wearing 20th-century clothing, but I assume that it's just the poor light that makes them look like that because I'm too idiotic to have twigged that this place is still inhabited, and occupied by people who aren't very nice.

A ladder leads to a room above, and since the only alternative is to go back to between the gates and wait for something to happen, I climb up. Windows look down on the temple courtyard, and I have no trouble attaching the rope to the sole bar across one of the windows, squeezing through the gap, and climbing down. It's hot outside, but an arcade provides shade on three sides of the courtyard. The east wall, however, is exposed to the sun, and has a number of dead people chained to it between a couple of statues.

I make for the north arcade, which turns out to be rather pleasantly decorated. A variety of valuable items are on display here, and I ignore the jewellery and tapestries because again I can only take one thing, and while my character may be clueless, I know that a mirror is more likely to be useful than an emerald ring.

Emerging from the shade, I continue to the east wall, and read the inscription on a statue's plinth, which basically spells out bad news for intruders. To justify the threat, the statues come to life, and I decide to see if the mirror will be of any help here. Yes, I use it to reflect the sun into the statues' eyes, dazzling them and making them easier to defeat in battle.

Musing on that inscription, I conclude that Terratakamen's spirit lives on and is holding court somewhere here. If I want to survive, I'm going to have to find and destroy him. Before going any further, I check out the corpses on the wall. Many are now skeletal, but there are three relatively fresh ones in contemporary clothing, one with a camera around its neck. This is the first one I examine, and I help myself to his camera bag, which contains a second camera, lenses and a flash gun, but only counts as a single item because it's all in the one bag or something.

It's probable that there's something nasty on one of the cadavers, so I skip the second one and turn my attention to the one with red hair. He has a notebook in one pocket, and I leaf through it, finding indications that going through the gates the statues were guarding is an excellent way to get Instant Deathed, and the safest route to the great hall is via the cellars, which can be accessed from the arcade. Bearing this in mind (and remembering what I found in the south arcade on my previous attempt), I head back to the north one to see if there's a trapdoor I missed.

No trapdoor, but I do notice that three of the paving stones echo more than the rest when I step on them, and conclude that there must be hollows beneath them. There's nothing to indicate that one is preferable to the others, but I note that the one by the third pillar has a section number without a 3 in, while the ones by the sixth and eighth pillars lead to sections 6 and 88 respectively, so I choose the odd one out. Which turns out to cover a shallow grave containing a corpse that's being eaten by ants, and I just stand there gaping idiotically until the ants swarm all over me and bite away a couple of Stamina points.

Plan B: eight is not a multiple of three, so I try the stone by the eighth pillar. Beneath it is a shaft, possibly once a well. There are handholds carved into the crumbling brick walls, but they look a bit precarious, and my Luck's uncomfortably low, so I try the other stone before risking investigating this one further. Beneath that one are steps leading down, so I descend them and proceed along a corridor with phosphorescent walls to a T-junction.

It's a bit of a maze down here, so I shan't describe every junction and turning. After a little while I get attacked by a lioness, which I recognise as Sekhmet. Perceiving me as a wrongdoer, she attacks, and I defend myself. After I've wounded her a few times, she vanishes, and I realise that I can no longer remember which way I was heading before the fight. Which is only possible thanks to a deplorable bit of authorial sneakiness that had me approaching a corner without being able to see which way the passage was turning. Picking a direction at random, the orientation of the next junction I reach suggests to me that I'm continuing forwards. Yep, definitely - I'd remember the long corridor I reach if I'd been along it before.

Turning my attention to the walls, I notice some loose stones, and pull on one. It comes away, revealing a cavity. Reluctant to just stick my hand in, I remove some more stones, hoping to be able to see if there's anything of use in there. The roof collapses on top of me.

No, I still prefer the Proteus adventure

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