Friday, 13 November 2015

Not My Idea of a Swell Time

I acquired Stefan E. Jones' Dark Temple, the 23rd of Flying Buffalo's Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures, from the same eBay seller as I did the preceding adventure. Consequently, it got the same cursory level of attention from me as the rest of the bundle I purchased, so this will be the first time I have a proper go at it.

Somewhat surprisingly, given that this was published in 1991, the rules section includes a detailed explanation of how to play a gamebook, complete with 'sample' paragraphs to illustrate the sort of choices offered and the different ways in which dice can determine where to go. I suspect that these paragraphs have nothing to do with the actual adventure, but the one about winding up in a random location as a result of getting a bucket stuck on your head deserves to be part of the actual text of a gamebook somewhere. Probably a T&T one or something by J.H. Brennan, as most other gamebook series wouldn't tolerate such a silly situation.

Unless I get some very impressive rolls at character creation, I'm liable to be playing a non-human, as the blurb indicates that the adventure is for characters 'with adds of 10-75'. Which means that I'll need a combined Strength, Luck and Dexterity of at least 40 (probably more) to get into the low end of the recommended range. Yep, the character I just generated doesn't even come close, but make him a Dwarf and suddenly he's almost there.

Strength: 24
Intelligence: 12
Luck: 6
Constitution: 22
Dexterity: 9
Charisma: 9
Speed: 13

Just one point outside the range, then. Probably doomed, but that low Luck would be a liability in almost any adventure, so I might as well kill this character here as in any other solo. I don't get that much money, either, but enough for clothes, a sword, a helmet and a shield. I automatically get a bag of food, too, as this adventure could cover a substantial timespan, and there are at least some basic rules to deal with the need for food. Given my success rate at T&T adventures to date, I may well perish before I even have time to get a bit peckish, but at least the rules are there if I do last long enough to need them.

I'm on the road, passing through the remote province of Myre, and have found an inn to spend the night. It's a good thing I didn't spend all my money, as the text assumes that I have at least the price of a meal and drink. The silly names for the coins may just be a bit of local colour, but in case there's a trivia quiz later on, I'll make a note of the denominations of hekkats and kabbobs.

There are three places I could sit to eat: with a group of gamblers, among the crowd listening to the reminiscences of a one-legged mercenary, or alongside the taciturn trio in green. I suspect that the men in green are members of the cult referred to in the blurb, who doubtless meet in the temple mentioned in the title of the adventure, so they're probably best left alone. I wonder if the mercenary's tales will provide any handy hints for the adventure ahead. Probably not, as it turns out, though the one about the man with the diamond foot could be a sneaky reference to the preceding adventure (I've already linked to it once). When he concludes his account of his adventurers, I have to give him at least a kabbob, and in return he hands me a note to set up a clandestine meeting. I could ignore it, but avoiding plot hooks tends not to go well in gamebooks, so I'll go to the appointed place at the set time rather than wait to see what unpleasant means the book will have of forcing me into the adventure.

There's a rather messy continuity error here, as our meeting starts with the mercenary binding whatever wounds I sustained in the fight I just didn't have, and being desperate enough to pass his current mission on to me in spite of my having just tried to kill him (which, as you probably noticed, I didn't, unless he had a severe allergy to the metal from which the coin I gave him was made). This adventure has 413 sections, so it's not as if writing an extra one that had the quest-giving bit without the post-battle details would have spoiled a nice round number.

Still, the important point is that there's a quest. He's on a mission to stop the Followers of Krestok from acquiring a scroll that will give their deity great power. Or rather, I'm now on that mission, because he's attracted too much attention. He gives me a map to the temple (presumably where the scroll is held) and a strange triangular metal bar that's a key to the temple. The key is cursed, so if I refuse to accept the quest, or fail in it, I permanently lose 5 Charisma. Given that the consequence of failing an adventure is usually death, losing my good looks (well, average looks, but quite impressive for a Dwarf) seems pretty mild by comparison, but avoiding even a nonlethal failure would obviously be better if he's right about the adverse consequences of allowing the Followers to succeed.

There are two different routes to the temple, one across a chain of mountains, the other through a forest. Mountaineering is liable to involve some rolling against my Dexterity, which is not that great, so I'll take the forest path. I'm given the option of hiring a guide, but there's a random element involved in looking for one, and in any case, I doubt that I could afford anyone remotely competent.

In the morning I set off through the forest. After a while the path forks, and there's a little descriptive detail to make the choice slightly less blind. I take the turning that leads down to a patch of open ground. It turns out to be a swamp, and my character doesn't think to try turning back and taking the other path. On the first day of wading through the swamp, random happenstance causes me to lose my food bag, as a result of which my Strength is halved until I get fresh supplies. That's pretty catastrophic, as my Strength was practically all I had going for me.

The next day consists of more trudging through the swamp, followed by a random encounter. This turns out to be five soldiers from the King of Myre's army, who arbitrarily mistake me for a spy and attack. Being outnumbered and at half Strength, I get shredded on the spot. And even if I hadn't had that Strength penalty, I'd still have been dismembered. Regardless, between the overkill and the curse, I do not make a beautiful corpse.

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