Friday, 26 July 2013

Half-Asleep Upon My Knee

There are at least a dozen gamebook series of which I have only a few volumes (or even just one), and I'm not concerned about filling the gaps in most of them - I have the books I want from the set, and am at best indifferent to the others. Nevertheless, while not obsessively completist, I will sometimes acquire something about which I'm not all that fussed if it's the only item I'm missing from a set (and at least reasonably priced). So while I was largely content to just have the 5 Wizards, Warriors & You books I'd read and, to an extent, enjoyed before (and it helped that they were all one lot on eBay), I did keep an eye out for the one WW&Y book I still lacked (I'm talking UK editions here - I know the US series was something like three times as long, but I have no great desire to track down the ones that were never published over here), and since playing book 3 on this blog, I've managed to get my hands on a copy. So I'm taking on the rĂ´le of the Wizard and casting a fourth wall-breaking Move Time Back spell in order to have a shot at dealing with The Siege of the Dragonriders.

This adventure, by the pseudonymous Eric Affabee, is set around two years after the preceding one. A day before the harvest is due to commence, an army of two hundred-odd black-armoured warriors fly into King Henry's realm on dragons and lay waste to the crops in the northern half of the region. As they prepare to depart, one of them announces that they will return to take over the kingdom. Once they're gone, the King entrusts the Wizard and the Warrior with a mission to discover the dragonriders' secrets and exploit them to ensure that no attack can be made on the lands to the south. As he sets off to implement austerity measures, the Warrior and I begin to follow the trail of destruction.

We don't get very far, as a transparent barrier blocks our way, and also prevents our retreat. I recognise this as a manifestation of the Invisible Shield spell (despite the fact that the write-up of the spell indicates that the shield encircles the caster, and disappears if he moves more than a few feet away, so unless the enemy sorcerer is present with us, there should be no way for it to imprison us like this. My character doesn't think of that, so unless he's being a bit slow-witted, the author is at fault here.

Regardless, I resort to using the Combat Magic spell, which will leave me unable to use any more magic today. Nor will I be able to use Combat Magic again this adventure (given the variable duration of the quests in these books, I can only conclude that the magic is aware of the fictional nature of what is going on, and recognises when one plot is over and another has commenced). Coin-flipping will determine whether or not I successfully cast this 'unpredictable' spell. Which is odd as, while some of the spells are said to be unpredictable in the list at the back of the book, the description of this one states that 'It will immediately dispel any magic, except that of a Grand Wizard' rather than 'It might work if the author is in a particularly benevolent mood'.

It does work, but it leaves me too physically drained to do anything else. The spell has also sapped the Warrior's strength, presumably operating on the same principle that allows a toddler to run wild all afternoon and still be full of energy, while the adults who've done nothing but sit and watch for the past few hours are exhausted. This is far from ideal, especially as the invaders also left a pack of dragonwolves (don't ask - the author couldn't be bothered to give anything more than a name) in case we managed to escape from the shield, so we get eaten.

Incidentally, a quick check of the section for getting more heads than tails reveals that the dragonwolves wouldn't be there if we were in a fit state to fight them. Mutable circumstances like that can enhance an adventure when used well, but they're more often just unwillingness to go to the effort of making the world of the adventure internally consistent, or even a means by which gamebook authors mess with their readers. One of these days, some joker will produce an e-gamebook that periodically changes its contents, so that what was once the best choice becomes suicidal on a replay.

Well, if that first incident is indicative of the general quality of the adventure, I should have contented myself with just having books 1 and 3-6.

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