Tuesday, 3 December 2013

So How Do We Communicate, Hmm? Telepathy?

The mini-adventure in the Mongoose edition of Castle Death, the seventh Lone Wolf book, is Nick Robinson's The All Seeing One, in which I play Tavig, a doomed warrior whom Lone Wolf may encounter during the main adventure. Slavers have kidnapped my sister, and in response I've done a rather silly thing, travelling a great distance to try and raise money for my sister's ransom by undertaking a hazardous mission for the Elder Magi. All the evidence suggests that if I'd become a one-man army, taking down her captors one by one, with a weak joke to accompany each successive villain's death, I'd have been in with a good chance of success. There's a reason you don't get many blockbuster movies where the hero infiltrates the fortress of a generic bad guy against whom he has no particular grudge and tries to kill him in return for a reward with which to pay off the kidnappers.

After (predictably) failing in the assassination attempt, I was thrown into the Deathtrap Dungeon-esque maze beneath the castle. I then escaped, only to run into a load of Beastmen who rendered me semi-conscious. They discuss what to do with me, choosing not to return me to the maze because I'm in too bad a condition to be entertaining, and eventually one of them convinces the rest that they should feed me to his pet. This pet lives in a pit, and the background text ends with my being dropped into that pit and blacking out as I fall.

Though this takes place before the main adventure, it's obviously supposed to be played afterwards, as some of the Beastmen's dialogue makes little sense without information provided in Castle Death. The fortress is surrounded by a magical shield that keeps its occupants from coming out to cause trouble in the surrounding regions. It's impossible to get through the shield (in either direction) without a magically charged jewel known as a Power-key, and based on what the Beastmen say, their master is building up a collection of Power-keys taken from losers like me in order to equip some of his other minions for an assault on the towers that generate the shield. I hope this is relevant to the plot of the mini-adventure, rather than just more of the 'HEY, DID YOU SPOT MY SUBTLE CONTINUITY REFERENCE THERE?' nonsense that helped make the previous mini-adventure so tiresome.

The TASO-specific rules concentrate on the special skills available to Tavig. Generation of stats just follows the normal rules, and there's nothing to say that I start with a reduced Endurance on account of being almost incapacitated and possibly having a fractured skull, so it would appear that despite being almost comatose even before getting dumped into the pit, I have
Combat Skill: 12
Endurance: 20
Skills: Tough as Nails, Wall Climber, Danger Sense
No starting equipment, as everything I had (bar my clothing) was taken from me when I was captured. I'll wait and see how the rule forbidding the acquisition of certain items until I find a Backpack is implemented before criticising it.

I come round in the pit, in considerable pain, and discover that The Thing In The Pit broke my fall, and was crushed to death in the process. The text acknowledges how massively implausible this is, which doesn't actually make it any less so. Picking myself up, I resolve to escape and thwart the plan to destroy the shield generators. The Beastmen referred to an 'All Seeing One' just before they started talking about that plan, leading me to the conclusion that The All Seeing One is a major player in that plan, so I decide to focus on dealing with him/her/it.

There are two passages leading out of the pit, so I'll look into at least one of them before attempting to find out if the Wall Climber Skill works on pit walls as well as castle walls. Choosing the more narrow of the exits, I see indications that The Thing In The Pit repeatedly tried and failed to get through it. Being smaller, I have no such trouble, and get to a fork in the passage. The branch that goes up looks like the more sensible choice (especially as the other one is described as being steep), so I start to ascend.

After a while I reach a door. It leads into an empty room, and the door locks behind me. Part of the room opens onto the pit into which I was thrown, and there's a second door in the far wall. I hear something approaching the new door from the other side. An illustration of this room would help me make sense of one of the options here, since I'm not sure how I could 'crouch down below the low wall which surrounds the pit' to hide from whoever is approaching. To hide from someone in the pit, or in a separate room that also overlooks the pit, sure, but to be screened from whoever's approaching the door, I'd need to be on the other side of the wall, and thus not so much crouching as falling down.

I'll go for the alternative: hiding behind the door, ready to attack if noticed. Except that my interpretation of hiding is at odds with the author's, as I inferred that I'd use at least a modicum of common sense and only start a fight if I were reasonably confident of the outcome or left with no alternative, whereas the text has me automatically attack the Beastman that steps through. Lone Wolf adventures sometimes handle the element of surprise by stating that the surprised party does no damage or fights at a reduced Combat Skill for the first round or two. Not this one. My ambush gives me no advantage, and between my low Combat Skill, my lack of a weapon, and a particularly bad 'roll' in the first round, I get killed on the spot.

Well, if I'd understood what that choice actually entailed (or been able to make sense of the alternative), I might have chosen differently. But the author didn't make things sufficiently clear, so it's game over. If I ever work up the motivation to try TASO again, I think I'll just avoid that path altogether in the hope that that's the only part where Mr. Robinson makes things quite so impressively unclear.

No comments:

Post a Comment