Wednesday, 19 July 2017

It's a Big Rock. I Can't Wait to Tell My Friends. They Don't Have a Rock This Big.

I recently got an alert from eBay regarding one of my saved searches. At first glance it appeared to be a false positive, as the Tunnels & Trolls Adventurers Compendium (sic.) was rather obviously not an issue of Sorcerer's Apprentice. However, on closer inspection, it turned out to be better, as the Compendium contains almost all of the mini-adventures featured in the magazine. And fixes at least some of the errors that crept into the original releases. So I got myself a copy of the Compendium, and now there's only one SA mini-adventure I still lack. I wonder why Wild Ride wasn't included.

The sections of the mini-adventures have been renumbered. This makes sense: back when they appeared in SA, in little blocks of however many sections could be fitted into the available gaps around the magazine, numbers like 38B (for the second section on page 38) were more useful than the straightforward linear progression found in most gamebooks, but now that the text is no longer all over the place, having the numbering jump straight from, say 21C to 28A is not that helpful.

I'm not entirely happy with Flying Buffalo's decision to mix all the adventures together, though I can see some sense to it: having the same section number appear 10 times in the same volume could easily lead to confusion, and there's a sense in which the risk of inadvertently glimpsing a spoiler is diminished by having each adventure's sections spread across 50 pages rather than just 5. The downside for me is that it adds complications to the process of entering the adventures into my gamebook manager. First World problems, I know.

The first Sorcerer's Apprentice mini-adventure was Michael Stackpole's Kingmaker, which appeared in issue 1. It appears suitable for the character who survived Hot Pursuit, both in terms of character design requirements and as regards narrative logic. Okay, so in view of my having failed to capture any of the Ranger spies, I can think of reasons other than just boredom for wanting to be somewhere other than the city of Gull. Nevertheless, it's appropriate that this adventure should start with my leaving the location of the same character's previous one.

After a few miles, I am ambushed and robbed of everything by a group of painted barbarians. They don't kill me in case I turn out to be the reincarnation of a former king of their tribe. Well, they don't kill me on the spot. Instead, they take me to a cave to endure a series of trials to prove my worthiness to rule them, which will probably kill me if I don't succeed. For every trial I do complete successfully, I will get a wooden token, which makes this seem like a cheap, potentially lethal solitaire version of The Crystal Maze.

Just inside the cave is a massive stone, with handholds worn into it by countless attempts at lifting it. My Strength is fractionally above average, but unless the Saving Roll to try and pick up the stone is only level 1, I'm going to need at least one double on the dice to have any chance at success. Do I risk it anyway? What if this is an intelligence test, to determine who's smart enough to recognise that the stone is just too big?

I give it a chance, and it's a level 2 roll. I fail it badly enough that the damage sustained in the attempt almost kills me. Not a good start.

Advancing into the cave, I see an Ogre with a club. The Ogre laughs upon spotting that I am unarmed. He's a bit of a slow mover, though, so I have a chance of dodging his club. That also requires a level 2 Saving Roll, only on Dexterity, which is slightly higher than my Strength, but still gives poor odds of success. Again I fall short of the target, so I have to fight the Ogre, and his first blow is powerful enough that I'd have been flattened even if I were at full strength.

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