Monday, 14 October 2013

Up a Gum Tree Without a Paddle

David Steven Moskowitz's The Amulet of the Salkti was the last Tunnels & Trolls solo (at least as regards original publication order) to be reprinted by Corgi Books. It accompanied Arena of Khazan, (which lost its first 'n' in a typo on the spine), so I acquired it that time I found three Corgi editions I lacked in a discount bookshop. And Amulet wound up being the adventure that got most attention out of that lot because of an unusual feature that it had: a plan B.

In most 'find the McGuffin' gamebooks, failure to acquire the relevant item(s) just means that you lose. In TAotS, if something prevents you from getting the eponymous amulet there is another way of resolving the crisis the amulet was needed to fix. It involves some tricky rolls, and I think it comes with a lower Experience bonus, but that's still preferable to straightforward defeat. Back when I first got it, that fact was what prompted me to try playing the adventure by the rules, creating and losing several characters before getting discouraged and giving up.

A paragraph in the introduction (omitted in the Corgi edition) recommends characters with stats averaging 23-33, which is way beyond what's achievable for a freshly-generated character (well, certain types of non-human would come in at the low end of that scale if I rolled the maximum possible score for every single attribute), so if I had reasonable expectations of being able to develop a character to that level, I might put this adventure on hold until someone levelled up sufficiently. Considering my success rate at T&T solos to date, that would be a very long wait, and I have already started writing this, so I might as well give it a go anyway.

Let's see how ill-equipped I'm going to be, then.
Strength 10
Intelligence 14
Luck 11
Constitution 9
Dexterity 12
Charisma 11
Speed 7
Ignoring Speed (as most solos do), that's a fairly respectable character. Whose stats average out at just under half the recommended minimum, but given that I've had more than one T&T character die before the first decision, I can't say that I'm necessarily any worse off than usual.

Given those stats, I'd better be a wizard. I can't afford a magic staff, Luck is just that bit too low to make me confident of succeeding at the Saving Roll required to successfully make my own, and I have yet to find any indication of whether or not it's possible to survive the explosion that results from a failed roll, so I'd better do without.

The city of Freegore has come in for a lot of attacks of late, and I am summoned to a meeting with the city leader where I learn why. It was built on the outskirts of the Salkti ruins, the Salkti having been destroyed by a demon that one of them accidentally summoned. A few of them managed to survive long enough to create a magic amulet to use against the demon, though they only managed to banish him from the world for a couple of centuries because he attacked them before they'd finished the job. That was 300 years ago, and now the demon has returned and raised up an army, who are on their way here, and have caused considerable unpleasantness in a couple of other locations that I may wind up needing to visit before this adventure is over.

My mission, should I choose to accept it (not only do I have the option of declining and generating a new character, but I could also accept and then run away, abandoning the people of Freegore to their fate, if I wanted to be severely punished by the author) is to enter the Salkti ruins and try to find the amulet. Magic will eliminate the need for food and drink while I'm on the quest, and I'm also taught a 'word of recall' which will teleport me back to the city if I get into insurmountable difficulties.

I set out to the ruins. A tree grows by them, and there seems to be something going on in it, so I climb up, and find a large snake devouring the eggs in a bird's nest. Its stats make attempting to fight it an exercise in futility, so I use the word of recall before I can die pointlessly.

Having failed to retrieve the amulet, I must resort to the back-up plan: sneaking into the enemy camp to see what I can do to frustrate the demon and his minions there. Which turns out to be 'get a guard to use up one of his poisoned arrows', sneaking not being something I'm particularly good at.

It would have been amusing if, having failed so many adventures for which I had a character of (theoretically) the right level, I'd got lucky and triumphed at one that declared itself as being for much more powerful heroes. That's not how it worked out, but I still lasted longer than in some of those others.

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