Monday, 28 March 2016

A Few of the Tales Were Exceedingly Picturesque

This is the third (and probably final) part of my playthrough of Magehunter. Anyone who hasn't read the earlier parts would be advised to do so before reading on, as this is not the most straightforward adventure ever to be published under the Fighting Fantasy banner.

Kallamehr is quite a metropolis, with all sorts of people in it, as well as a number of strange non-human creatures (I, the reader, recognise that many of these creatures are also people, but my character hasn't yet cottoned on to the existence of other sapient, intelligent species). There's some additional bookkeeping on the Adventure Sheet from now on, evidently to keep track of how long I've been here and how much attention I've attracted. Spending too much time seeking Mencius is likely to end badly (not that I've ever survived long enough to find out how), but I know from a combination of past attempts that not taking long enough is also inadvisable. The tricky part is going to be passing the required amount of time without getting killed. And finding an opportunity to swap bodies with Reinhardt again.

First I try using my limited language skills to find out if any other people with a complexion like mine have arrived in the city of late. A woman seems to get what I'm asking, and leads me to a district in which the only structures are tents. There's a big space in the middle of the area, in which a crowd is watching a performer on a stage. He wears heavy make-up, and is putting on a magic show. Well, doing tricks with silk scarves. My character thinks it could be Mencius, but even if previous attempts at the book hadn't left me with an inkling of what my nemesis is actually up to, I'm pretty sure I'd be sceptical about the idea of such a villain becoming an entertainer (and limiting himself to what could just be sleight of hand rather than using more impressive magic). Consequently, rather than trying to ambush him, I'll just follow him after the show ends.

He lives on the far side of the tent district, and I keep an eye on his footprints as I trail him. According to the Treatise, every 101st print left by a Mage is in the shape of a cat's paw rather than a foot. I see no pawprints along the way, so unless every single 101st print got obliterated before I could see it (unlikely but not impossible), this man is not a Mage. With my options now limited to ambushing him or giving up on this 'lead', I take note of the abysmal Skill score this body has, and leave the district.

A trip to the market wastes a little more time, and reveals to me that there's a slightly larger variety of items on sale here than in the previous town. Prices are largely consistent, but weapons and fancy clothing are cheaper here, while food and plain clothes cost more. I'm sure that that indicates something about the nature of supply and demand in the region.

I consider using Magehunting methods, but the only one open to me is the one that probably leads to the fight which ended my first attempt at the book. On reflection, that's more likely to have happened in Kallamehr than the other town: Kallamehr's bath-house was a visitable location in The Riddling Reaver, and I'm not even certain I went to the unnamed town the first time I played Magehunter. Thinking about the technique without trying it doesn't advance the clock, so I'm no better off for having looked into the possibilities.

Well, the only other thing I can do is seek a storyteller. For now I will not look for the one recommended by Al-Bakbuk, so I just wander around until I find one. This turns out to be a man in patchwork clothes, who tells the onlookers a fable that mocks judging by appearances. I give the man a coin and ask if he's seen any strangers, and he replies with a fable about greed. Indeed, I can't get him to say anything that isn't a fable of no obvious relevance to my situation, so I leave him to it.

Still, that has passed the time satisfactorily. As I contemplate my next course of action, Mencius finds me. He's come for a gloat, and, grinning all over my face, explains that his powers are much stronger in this world, so he has a gift to show how insignificant he considers me. My scalp prickles as he hands over a box, but I don't attempt to swap bodies, as I tried that the first time I reached this point in the adventure, and it did not end well for me.

The box contains my pistol, plus gunpowder and a lead bullet. Having delivered his insult, Mencius heads off again. Following him would be inadvisable at this stage, but now I have something with which to fire my silver bullet, it's okay for me to go looking for Al-Haddar. Well, okay-ish: I'm still stuck as Reinhardt, but I don't think there's anything I can do about that by now. I wish the book had said something about whether or not it was possible to just make use of equipment held by my companion (as long as we remained together), so I could have dispensed with that second body-swap. Next time round, I'll just have to assume I can somehow persuade or intimidate Reinhardt.

Al-Haddar is as hospitable as his brother, and tells me that his stories may help me in my quest, as they are all true, and the truth is a powerful thing. He throws a feast in my honour, but afterwards I discover that I'm in worse trouble that I'd realised. What the book says is slightly ambiguous, but I suspect that what it's supposed to mean is that I can only listen to the stories if I have a proper understanding of the language. Which is not unreasonable - I had been wondering how I was able to follow the other storyteller's fables so well with my limited grasp of the lingo - but almost certainly means that I've already completely failed the adventure, and all that remains to discover is how I wind up dying. Should have gone with my out-of-character knowledge back at the sorcerer's cave, rather than roleplaying.

Well, if my character's doomed, I might as well explore a false trail or two before the end. It'e either that or the bath-house bouncer again. There are two other named storytellers I can visit, and not having been given their names doesn't appear to be an obstacle to calling on them, so I'll try Al-Nashshar. Well, I try to try, but it turns out that I'm not the only person here not to have heard of him. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be a single person in Kallamehr who knows anything of his existence. My search takes me back to the market square, where I spend the last of Reinhardt's money on half a dozen more mirrors, to reduce whatever benefits Mencius might gain from looting my corpse.

That only leaves Al-Fakik to try visiting. He turns out to live in a rather shabby hut in the unsavoury part of the city that is the docks. He's also fat and scruffy, and demands two gold in return for a story. As I'm out of cash, and cannot truthfully claim to have been sent here by his brother, all I can do is leave again.

Time's up. I suddenly hear (but don't see) Mencius mocking me for being so conspicuous in my investigations. My sixth sense leads me to a run-down house close by, and my common sense doesn't kick in, as a result of which I wind up leaping through an open window rather than loading my pistol, laying down a circle of mirrors, or anything else that might actually help me in the impending confrontation. So Mencius transforms me into a rat.

I don't think this book deserves the poor reputation it has among gamebook fans. Nevertheless, it has its problems, and a bit more editorial attention (including asking for clarification in a few places) could have made a significant improvement.

1 comment:

  1. I always assumed you can swap clothes and equipment with Reinhardt, but I agree some clarification would have been nice. Although if you let the cave sorcerer cast his spell on you, you will get another opportunity to swap bodies so you can do it your way too.