Saturday, 30 April 2022

You May Find Yourself in Another Part of the World

I guess it's time I had another go at Lone Wolf book 11, The Prisoners of Time. My first attempt went about as well as could be expected, and owing to the extremely linear nature of the adventure, much of my replay is liable to go the same way, so I'll be brief about the bits that happen much as they did before. In the past, I've written such repeat performances in the style of a verse found in the gamebook I'm replaying, but if there's any attempted poetry in this book, I have yet to find it. Thus, making a tenuous connection with the word 'time' in the title, I shall use They Might Be Giants' song Older as the lyrical skeleton to be fleshed out with a summary of my actions where they barely differ from the previous account.

Right now I'm very glad I went to the effort of creating my gamebook manager, as it makes it a lot easier to skim through all the exposition and lack of interactivity.

I take 3 damage from the trip, and in the cairn I shelter,
The Yoacor transport me,
I meet with the Beholder.
He sends me on to Vhozada to liaise with Serocca.
Endurance drops to 12.

At this point I can briefly deviate from my previous course of action. Knowing that approaching the nearby monolith will trigger an alarm, and that there appears to be no benefit gained by doing so, I stay away from it. Continuing to follow the stream that led me here, I start to wonder if there's no intelligent life in the vicinity (even though the Beholder told me this is the home of 'one of great vision', and metallic pyramids tend not to be naturally occurring phenomena), but then I find some fields planted with orderly rows of fragrant yellow herbs.

I take a closer look at the herbs, but not having the Discipline of Curing leaves me unable to determine what effects sampling them might have, so I leave them alone. The section in which I examine them has been slightly edited in the Mongoose Publishing edition, probably in response to an oversensitive grammar checker making a fuss about a sentence that was perfectly legitimate anyway.

Following a path up a hill, I see that on the other side is a city inhabited by simian creatures. For some reason I regard this as the first sign of civilisation I've seen in this land, despite having just passed blatant evidence of agriculture. There's another unnecessary Mongoose edit here, changing 'who' to 'that'. Probably just more grammar checker nonsense, but given that this book's portrayal of the natives is problematic already, replacing a pronoun which implies personhood with one that can be used for things doesn't look good.  

I... reach the city.
The lo-cals manhandle me.

Serocca speaks of Destiny, and says the Chaos-Master
Is causing much destruction,
Then tells me where to go next.
I rest and heal and have to get rid of two Special Items
To make room for more tat.

I meet a doomed companion and travel by onipa
Until we reach a village
And stop for something to eat.
The local fortune teller offers to give me a reading.
She tells me I will dream.

Though the outcome of the fortune-telling is randomised, I got the same outcome as before, so I don't learn any new cryptic hints this time round. I hope I won't have to play this again, even if that would give me another chance to get a different vague info-dump, but I'm not optimistic. From the top...

We drive on and approach a bridge. I see it has been damaged.
We stop so we can fix it.
The Chaos-Spawn attack us.
I help until T'uk T'ron tells me that I should go now,
And then I run away.

I... spot Ironheart's men.
Will they... shoot at me again?

This time just I stealthily approach them before initiating telepathic contact with the receptive scout, and am thus able to hear that they're talking about me and my escort, wondering what's taking us so long to get here. I also see their sleeve-mounted crossbows, and reflect that it would be inadvisable to startle them (in a sentence that is actually improved in the Mongoose edit). This leads me to speculate on how this scene must have played out on my previous attempt.

Scout 1: Still no sign of this 'Lone Wolf' bloke we're supposed to be meeting?
Scout 2: Nope.
Scout 3: He should have been here hours ago.
Lone Wolf: Hello! I'm Lone Wolf. I believe you've been sent to meet me.
Scouts: AAAAAAH!!! Kill it!

The scouts determine who I am, and take me to their leader.
He waffles on for ages,
Then picks Odel to guide me,
And offers me the option to pick up some fresh equipment,
But this time I decline.

As a result of leaving immediately, I get an info-dump from Odel about the lichen that catches my attention. It's very toxic. I have the option of taking some with me, and decide to in case I get the chance to use it against an opponent. My more prompt departure also means that I don't encounter the attempted ambush by an Agtah, and we proceed straight to the burial grounds where the Lorestones arrived. Last time I played this book, enemies turned up and intervened before I could get the stones, but I got here more quickly on this occasion. You think that'll make a difference?

I solve the puzzle lock and get into the Grand Sepulchre.
My sword lights up the exit.
Odel gets killed just off-stage.
I step onto the roof and see the dragon helm-clad soldier
Who means to take the stones.

Firing an arrow didn't seem to help last time, so I think I'll just launch straight into an attack. Not that that's any better, actually. I hit the warrior, momentarily driving him away from the Lorestones, but when I approach them, they make me feel so good that I space out for a moment, during which time the warrior draws his curved sword, forces me away from the stones, drops them into his pouch, and presses his attack - with better stats than he had after I used the bow. For the first two rounds of the fight I get lousy numbers, taking 6 points of damage. Still, the Combat Ratio is such that in the third round I cannot fail to do enough damage to force him to retreat - and now I score a killing blow.

The railroad will not be thwarted, though. The warrior's death throes cause his hand to become entangled in the rope ladder attached to the saddle of the giant bird which bore him here, and the bird flies away, taking his corpse with it. Here we go again.

I attempt to cut loose the pouch in which he put the Lorestones,
But merely cut it open,
Causing one stone to fall out.
I descend to ground level to at least recover that one.
Two Agtah scouts attack.

They... die instantly.
The stone... now belongs to me.

The sword dropped by the warrior reveals the place he came from.
My way is blocked by monsters.
I choose to shelter elsewhere.
The puzzle lock on Baylon's Tomb still defies explanation,
But I still get it right.

There are actually two search options in the tomb, apparently mutually exclusive. The burial chamber yielded nothing on my previous attempt, so I'll check in case there's anything potentially useful inside the sarcophagus. Doing so highlights one significant difference between the Lone Wolf gamebooks and some other series: I pay scant regard to the body's 'mattress' of diamonds and gemstones, and dismiss the golden-bladed ceremonial sword at his side as being an impractical weapon. What does get my attention is the silver flask of wine, and as its contents smell good (the Mongoose edit stresses that it is surprising for wine that's been stowed in a tomb for years to smell so fresh), I risk a sip.

It's good stuff. I can take it with me and drink from it twice, restoring 4 Endurance points each time. The Mongoose text also has the test draught provide an Endurance boost - one I can't use, but if I'd somehow managed to take damage between recovering the Lorestone and getting here, that could be a life-saver.

Sounds of battle from outside prompt me to head to the roof and see what's going on.

Now Ironheart's army has arrived: they're slaying all the Agtah.
The Chaos-master turns up.
I very mildly wound him.
We fight: his stats are lower in the Mongoose Books edition.
Regardless, I still lose.

I think I may have to go all the way back to the beginning of the series and get myself a Lone Wolf with a higher starting Combat Skill. I know of an Instant Death that can be encountered quite early on in Flight from the Dark, so I can use that to dispose of any character who gets 17 or less, and maybe then the next time I reach this tiresome book it'll be with a Lone Wolf who actually has a chance of winning.

2 comments:

  1. Just carry on after chaos master as if you won, its one of if not the most Imbalanced fight in the series.

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  2. Seems a bit drastic to go back to Book 1. Couldn't you just cheat? Don't think anyone would blame you!

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