Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gamebook Geek - Scorpion Swamp playthrough and review

As Stuart would say, hello gamebookers! I'm Torallion (otherwise known as Paul in a strange alternate universe) and Stuart has very generously invited me to include my infrequent posts on this blog in an effort to compile the happenings in the gamebook world in one place. My 'thing' at the moment is Fighting Fantasy playthroughs, so without further ado here is my playthrough and review of Scorpion Swamp. This is just the first attempt but the post in its entirety can be found on my blog here:

Title: Scorpion Swamp

Author: Steve Jackson (USA)

Illustrator: Duncan Smith

Published: 1984

Level of previous knowledge: Ah, Scorpion Swamp. I remember this one quite well. Three wizards, three quests, a bunch of magic spells and an infinite amount of those damned irritating sword trees. If I can't manage this one it's because I did something really, really stupid. Or rolled a SKILL of 7.

Plot summary: A good deed has earned me some kind of magic ring which has an unfailing built-in compass and evil-proximity detection functionality. This is quite powerful, so the obvious thing to do is go off and die in a swamp somewhere so that the ring cannot possibly fall into the wrong hands. Also something about mapping.

Rules: This book has a magic system with three types of spell - good, evil and neutral. The spells you get to choose from depend on which wizard you decide to deal with. Despite the section in the rules called 'Stamina and Provisions' there are no provisions in this book - for some reason being able to cast spells removes the requirement to eat.

Adventure Log

Attempt #1
Stats rolled: SKILL 7, STAMINA 24, LUCK 9
I asked for that didn't I? At least with stamina like this my death will be protracted and painful.

Arriving at the small town of Fenmarge, I did what every good adventurer does and headed for the tavern. There I announced to the local population of slack-jawed yokels that I intended to explore Scorpion Swamp. At this news their jaws became slacker (four generations of inbreeding shows) and they tried to discourage me from this plan. As I turned away an Amish farmer appeared from nowhere and persuaded me that I should have some kind of quest to make entering the swamp worthwhile. I agreed to this, and started glancing around the tavern for floating yellow exclamation marks above the heads of the locals. The farmer explained that there were three wizards nearby - one good, one evil and one er, strange. I opted for the latter, in the hopes that such a wizard might not notice that I have all the combat skill of a ham sandwich.

So I sought out Poomchukker, eventually finding his house in the village market. The door was opened by a goblin serving girl. All my instincts screamed at me to turn and run from this fearsome foe, but I bravely stood my ground and was invited inside. After an attempt ro buy the ring from me which I immediately regretted refusing, the wizard explained that he wanted someone to map the route through the swamp to a town called Willowbend so that he could send caravans through. He then gave me a few spell gems to help me out, none of which looked particularly helpful against deadly sword trees.

I merrily departed the wizard's home and made my way to the swamp, where I committed another huge mistake by striding past the sign which warned me to turn back. Reaching the first clearing, I immediately tripped over a root and hurt my leg - I really wasn't cut out for this swamp stuff. Heading eastwards, I made my way to more solid ground where I was offered the opportunity to rest after my long, arduous journey so far. Tempting as it was, I decided to move on and also ignore the hollow tree in the clearing which looked certain to contain something deadly - a small badger perhaps.

From here I headed northwards, soon finding myself in a clearing covered in spider webs. Lacking any option to immediately turn and run for it, I walked into the clearing and found myself face to face with the Master of Spiders, a nasty-looking fellow with pointy ears and no access to a razor. I decided that the best course of action would be to set him on fire, and did so. He took exception to this, dying angrily before the entire clearing went up in flames while I escaped with singed eyebrows.

Running north, I arrived at a grassy clearing with no sign of spiders or evil-looking roots to cause me harm. As I paused to catch my breath I was assaulted by the grass itself. Hacking my way out with some difficulty and significant stamina loss, I limped eastwards where i encountered three odd-looking creatures which were apparently swamp orcs. "I say--" I began, before a pair of arrows were released, one of which caught my arm on the way past, making me even less skilful than I was previously. At this point I didn't like my chances of surviving any combat, so I ran for it, barging past them and not stopping until I found myself at another junction. I didn't know whether or not to be relieved that they hadn't pursued.

Heading westwards this time (this was going to be a hell of a caravan route) my brass ring started flashing and a calm voice said 'WARNING - EVIL PROXIMATE'. OK it didn't, but that would have been cool. Instead it tingled a bit, and I looked around to see a whole load of scorpions scuttling towards me. Transfixed in horror, I stood there like an idiot while the evil things crawled all over me, stinging all the way. Running off again (I should have adopted the position earlier) I headed north, arriving at a stone bridge crossing a river. Casting a stamina spell in case the bridge decided to attack me, I stepped gingerly on to it and started the crossing. Fortunately there were no nasty surprises.

On the other side of the bridge was a huge tree standing alone in the middle of a clearing. Suspiciously eyeing its branches for any signs of swords, I stopped to look upwards, spying a large nest at the top. Its owner then arrived and glared at me. I had no idea what the eagle was trying to tell me and pondered asking it for directions, but eventually thought better of it and backed westwards out of the clearing.

I stepped around a tree to meet a dwarf. Irritatingly, however, he wouldn't be much use in providing me with directions due to the giant scorpion pincers around his neck. Offered the chance to perform a heroic rescue or a cowardly retreat, I of course chose the latter, only mildly annoyed that I wasn't offered the more despicable option of waiting for the scorpion to lose interest in the dwarf's corpse and then having a good old fashioned loot.

With a cheery wave I continued northwards, turning west at a crossroads. The path turned southward, away from the direction in which I was generally trying to head, but at the junction a ball of dancing light was trying to beckon me westwards, off the main path. As tempting as this was, my innate fear of bumping into an evil television set asserted itself and I decided against entering the murky undergrowth.

Following the path southward, I found myself in a marshy clearing containing a large, fetid pool. Sighing and preparing for the worst, I approached, watching the pool and awaited the inevitable... lump of slime which heaved itself out of the pool and into my intended path. Dismissing the idea of trying to leap over it (such heroics are reserved for those with less ranks in Clumsy Foolishness) I froze it with an Ice spell, which worked remarkably well, and proceeded westwards once more, aiming a smug kick at the frozen remains on the way past.

Distracted by my own sense of not-quite-as-much-inferiority, I almost blundered into the gang of brigands up ahead. Hiding behind a benevolent-looking tree, I considered my options. Informed by the text that 'there is no need to be foolish', I figured that 'Charge out at them, shouting and waving your sword' could result in a sub-optimal outcome. I didn't want to turn back so I was left with a choice between magic or diplomacy. A glance at my character sheet and... diplomacy it is! (This assumes that evoking pity is a form of diplomacy.) Walking out to greet them, I was soon challenged by their leader. My plan had worked and they didn't feel that attacking me five-on-one was very sporting. However they seemed to believe that a fair fight with their leader was sporting - an assertion I disagreed with heartily, but went along with because it was better than the alternative. Fortunately, the fight was only to first blood and if I lost I would have to hand over something of value. Presumably my preferred solution of just handing something over without all the violence wouldn't have been sporting. Duly losing the fight, I handed over one of my spell gems and was allowed to continue on my way, after a nice cup of tea and a sit down. Spiffing chaps, these brigands.

Now heading north once more, I found myself on a progessively wider path which eventually led me to the town of Willowbend! Choosing a tavern at random, I found myself in a bedroom above the Black Bear, which was apparently an extremely popular night spot with the locals. I was offered the chance to go downstairs (presumably in my pyjamas, teddy bear in hand) and threaten an entire barful of drunken louts into jolly well keeping the noise down. Or I could just dream of being that stupid. Eventually I woke up to the sounds of the morning market, arose and left town again without so much as a spot of breakfast. Of course, now that I had the route to Willowbend mapped out I could do the sensible thing and go back around the swamp the long way, to avoid the perils within.

Or I could march straight back through like a sucker.

Fortunately the brigands remembered how pathetic I was and didn't feel like bothering me again and I continued my journey unmolested as far as the eagle's nest. Here I was told that I was really honestly quite curious about the extremely fascinating bundle of twigs in the tree above me and was offered another chance to explore the opportunity to have my eyes pecked out. Somehow resisting the temptation, I headed south until I arrived in a clearing containing hundreds of familiar-looking scorpions. They recognised me too, and swarmed towards me in the hope of seconds. A Fire spell soon taught them a lesson, and rather than hang about to make scorpion kabobs I left the clearing in a hurry.

Remembering that I was forced to run through this area of the swamp in a comical fashion because of all the mild peril, I decided to deviate slightly from the route I took on the way to Willowbend. Turning west, I entered a clearing where a man in a rather fetching hat was sat against a tree, eating cheese. He invited me to join him, but my ring warned me that his alignment did not make this a sensible plan. Choosing to pass him by but not make any attempt whatsoever to keep an eye on him, I shouldn't have been surprised when he sprang to his feet, choked me with his garrotte and robbed me blind. All I had left was a Stamina spell gem, however, and I was glad he left me with my sword, or my combat effectiveness would have descended to that of a tree stump.

The next clearing showed all the signs of a bloody battle. Now in a hurry to get out of the swamp before I encountered something deadly (a small vulture, for example), I declined the chance to wade in the gory remains looking for valuables and moved on. I then bumped into (not literally, thankfully) a wounded unicorn, which seemed up for a fight. I, on the other hand, was not, and was forced to run back the way I came. Back on my original route, I was again thwarted when I found the clearing where I met the Master of Spiders was still very much on fire. Retreating once more, I found myself in the clearing where I bravely defeated several orcs' attempt to kill me by running away from them. This time I was offered no such luxury, and I was forced into combat with all three of them at once. I managed to kill one but after five rounds I succumbed to their lesser incompetence.

Conclusion: Failure. So that's what it feels like to be the pinball...
Number of combats: 5

Go to Gamebook Geek to read further attempts and my review!

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