Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Slave to Fate, Chance, Kings, and Desperate Men

Someone in my family must have been ill when Proteus issue 10 came out, as I remember being in the waiting room at the doctor's while flicking through my newly-acquired copy. I had a tendency to get particularly nasty coughs during winter, so the visit to the doctor may well have been on my behalf, but it's also possible that I was accompanying some other unwell family member. In any case, that's where I was when I discovered that it was a bad idea to smash the soul-trapping mirror, as doing so released all the souls trapped in it, which promptly sought to inhabit the nearest available body - my character's - leading to insanity and death.

So that was how I first failed The Triad of Evil, by Elizabeth Caldwell (with the assistance of R.B. Newton). Not one of Ms. Caldwell's better adventures, though a quick look at my review of it suggests that it's not as bad as memory makes out. Still, not having played it since I wrote the review 9 years ago, I doubt that I'll be able to remember the route which avoids the 'roll a double six or die' encounter, so I'm not expecting to do very well.

The citadel of Llamar was once the home of the Knights of the Jewelled Heart, a powerful force for good. Then one of the Knights fell ill, which somehow enabled the Dark Powers to conquer the citadel, which has remained under their control ever since. My character is a descendant of one of the Knights, as was my father. He attempted to destroy the beings that now inhabit the citadel, and presumably died in the attempt. Now I'm embarking on the same quest because otherwise the citadel's inhabitants will try to take over the world. Okay, so since taking the citadel, they've just stayed in there minding their own business, but they must be plotting world domination, right? I mean, that's what bad guys do.

So what does the latest champion of Light look like?
Dexterity 11
Strength 20
Valour 12
Valour always starts at 12, and there are no direct harmful consequences to having it drop to 0. Which is a good thing, as points are generally lost as a consequence of encountering monsters, rather than failure to act in a sufficiently pure-in-heart manner.

It's unclear exactly how long ago the citadel fell, but the fact that the catacombs inhabited by the invaders are accessed by means of an 'old but sturdy' staircase that must post-date the assault gives some indication that it has been a long while. I descend to an east-west corridor, and spot a poem carved onto the wall. The metre's all over the place, and rhyming 'aid you' and 'with you' is a bit weak, but it's by no means the worst verse I've ever encountered in a gamebook. As regards content, it's basically a checklist of items that will or might be needed by anyone seeking to destroy the Dark Ones. From past attempts, I know that the Eye of Truth mentioned there isn't actually helpful, and I consider it worse than useless, given the Valour cost of the visions it inspires: Valour loss can still be harmful if it results in my failing a roll at some point.

After memorising the poem, I realise that it's written in my father's handwriting (so either he did a lot of chiselling out messages, or the differences between stone-carving and using a pen are being overlooked), and vow revenge. Not that seeing the poem gives any indication of precisely what fate befell him - it doesn't end in 'Aargh!' or anything along those lines. In fact, as I recall, this is the last time that my father's ill-fated expedition comes up: there's no opportunity to find his remains or go all Inigo Montoya on his slayer, no shock revelation that he has been corrupted by the Dark Powers and become an antagonist, nothing but the poem and the wasted potential.

I go east and come across a cell which holds a cadaverous (yet still living) Knight of the Jewelled Heart, who turns 'skull-like eyes' on me. I speak with him, learning that he is the man whose weakness led to the fall of the citadel. He's been cursed with immortality and locked in here to try and dissuade the likes of me from going any further. In a display of villain overconfidence, the Dark Ones also allow him to provide assistance to those who will not turn back, so I must choose between an incantation and an object. All being well, my stats should suffice against the monster repelled by the incantation, so I go for the item, a glowing green jewel in the shape of a heart. Promising to do what I can to end the man's torment (a promise that has just as much of a bearing on the rest of the adventure as my father's fate), I follow the corridor as it turns north.

Icicles fall on me, dislodged by the sound of my stomping along the corridor, so I resolve to tread more carefully in future. A side turning leads back west, and I head along it because a straight line is almost never the best route to follow in gamebooks. The passage leads to a door, behind which is a room containing a grotesque monstrosity known as the Soul Eater. Not possessing any James Brown albums with which to distract it (nor having learned the Knight's incantation), I have to fight. It's not a particularly formidable foe, so long as it never gets a double 6 - which it doesn't - and I kill it without taking any damage.

There's a silver key lying on the floor, so I pocket that. The door by which I entered has no means of opening from this side, likewise the one opposite, but there is a door in the north wall. It has a diamond-studded platinum lock, and I know better than to waste time trying the key I just found in it, so I go straight for the brute force approach. Using my shoulder as a battering ram is painful but effective.

My wanderings bring me to a sturdy door with iron bars across it. Something rumbles behind the door and, drawing back the iron bars (I'm guessing that they're some kind of non-secured gate, but the text is vague here), I go through. And the rumbling turns out to have been a Dragon snoring. The Dragon's a light sleeper, and slams the door behind me with his tail. He then tells me that he's already eaten, so if I can do better than him in a non-lethal fight, he'll let me leave. If he prevails, there's still room for dessert.

I don't do so well here, which is understandable, as the Dragon does have a higher Dexterity (this fight is avoidable, so the adventure's not completely unfair for having such an opponent). Once I've lost the requisite number of rounds, the Dragon asks if I'll just let him eat me, or if I'm prepared to help him work up an appetite. I fight on, of course, but the lethal fight goes little better than the sporting one, and I wind up eaten. There are worse ways to go.

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