Monday, February 8, 2016

GAMEBOOK STATTING - Part 2

Hello again!

This time around I'm adding that old favourite, Deathtrap Dungeon.  I've added some more rows which you can see below.  Findings as always at the bottom.  Oh, I've added a new feature (because I like the sound of my own writing) called (Dis)Honourable Mentions.  It's bits and pieces that pop up at me as I'm going through statting out the book.

Quite a sizeable post this one, so for those of you who hate reading, here's the summary:

TL;DR = "DD is very, very dangerous"


RESULTS



WoFM
FoD
DD
Dead end paragraphs
5
2
31
Instadeath paragraphs
0
0
2
Total Attribute Tests
24
18
39
 Test Your Luck
21
12
25
 Test Your Skill
2
6
13
 Test Your Stamina
1
0
1
Total Gold
127
79
4
Luck modifier total
59
0
-2
 Luck from opponents
39
4
2
 Luck bonuses
20
10
6
 Luck penalties
0
-14
-10
Skill modifier total
-1
-2
-13
 Skill from opponents
4
0
1
 Skill bonuses
7
2
3
 Skill penalties
-12
-4
-17
Stamina modifier total
-18
-67
-151
 Stamina from opponents
5
0
-5
 Stamina bonuses
16
12
15
 Stamina penalties
-39
-79
-161
No. of combat encounters
36
38
21
Total number of opponents
56
65
27
Average Opponent skill
7
7
8
Average Opponent stamina
6
6
7
Lowest Opponent skill
4
3
5
Lowest Opponent stamina
1
2
4
Highest Opponent skill
11
10
12
Highest Opponent stamina
18
12
15


FINDINGS


DEAD END PARAGRAPHS vs INSTADEATH (NEW)
When I first thought of this I had a clear idea of what I meant: turning to a paragraph and simply dying without any real warning.  That annoys me and I know it annoys a lot of other people.  I tried to quantify it as any paragraph that doesn’t lead to another, but that comparison isn’t fair.  For example, in WoFM, you discover what happens when you’re defeated by the Vampire and Ghoul; you’ve already been defeated, you simply read how they bite into your arse for some juicy adventurer meat (yum, yum).  I feel these paragraphs were put in so they could reach a total of 400, so it’s more like extra flavour.  But in Deathtrap Dungeon, when you prise out the wrong eye jewel, some poison gas is released and you fall to your death.  Where’s the warning?  Where’s the clues that you shouldn’t do that?  Nowhere, that’s where.  And the room of dead, previous competitors you walk into (after losing Throm to a falling boulder trap), that you can’t escape from.  Where were the warning signs for that!?


But you know what, you’re in a dungeon famed for it’s deadly traps, so I’m not bothered by that so much, although these two are still going in the Instadeath column.


What I’m really referring to are things such as Masks of Mayhem, when you walk too far to the west in a forest and you simply disappear.  Or try to raft it across a dangerous lake (surely the quickest end to an adventure short of trying to attack Yaztromo in FoD).  You have NO warning, no clues to dissuade you from taking that western path in the forest. At least when you charge Yaztromo in his tower, he shows you his 9mm and says, “Don’t dis me in ma crib boy, I’ll light yo ass up” or words to that effect.  


So that is Instadeath and in my humble opinion, we need fewer instances of it (might be a bit tricky now that all the FF books have pretty much been written).  So think of the Instadeath column as a badge of shame.  The higher the number, the greater the number of people that should walk behind that book’s naked body in the street, ringing a bell and crying out “Shame!” every few seconds.


TEST YOUR ATTRIBUTE (NEW)
As suggested by Stuart, I’ve included the attribute tests.  What’s immediately striking here is that DD will ask you to test your luck 25 times to WoFM’s comparable 21, but whereas the original book will have a stonking 59 pts available to you to make up for all those rolls, DD will actually work against you having a final modifier of -2 pts.  Strange, it’s like the Dungeon actually wants you to fail?  


DD is also a lot more demanding of its Skill Tests too (more than WoFM and FoD combined).  It certainly sorts the wheat from the Skill=7 chaff.  And actually that’s a good thing (see opponents).  Especially from the viewpoint of saving yourself time and unnecessary bother.  This pretty much equates to Michael Palin's Roman bureaucrat from Life of Brian at the registration booth saying to contestants, “Skill 9 or less?  Out the door, one cross each, line on the left.  Skill 9 or less?  Out the door, one cross each, line on the left.”


GOLD PIECES
Well, you certainly don’t go to DD for the money!  That’s a grand total of 4 gold pieces you can pick up.  Woo hoo!  Still, if you make it out you get a lovely (exact) amount of 10,000 gold pieces.  I wonder if the hero actually counted it all out?  What if Sukumvit decided to just pay 9,000 gps?  Could you tell the difference? Come to think of it, what kind of independent audit procedures does Baron Sukumvit actually have in place?  Do you have to pay tax on your winnings or is it more like the lottery?  I’d like to see the Allansian Inland Revenue try and demand 40% of your gold as you stagger out, bloodied and bruised.  Wait a moment, I’ve just had an idea for a new gamebook!  Let’s call it Deathtax Dungeon.


SKILL/STAMINA/LUCK MODIFIERS
We covered Luck and Skill earlier, but who cares about that, just look at the Stamina modifier total!  Dear lord, -151!?  DD certainly can’t be accused of not living up to its name.  So where does all that come from?  Well, there are a fair few instances of roll a d6 and lose that many stamina points x 2!  Remember that I’m using the maximum possible damage result, so where it says you take 1d6 x 2 stamina damage from the Manticore spikes, I put in -12 (not an average).  Also skewing the results somewhat is the incorrect jewel combination penalty at the very end.  Each wrong combo dishes out 1d6+1 (so 7 pts) stamina damage.  Multiply that by 5 wrong answers before you hit the last (and correct) combo and you’ve already taken -35 pts.


Now you could argue for a more average result of the dice rolls, but honestly, I’ve got friends who would roll that badly (no doubt paying for sins in a former life) and if you didn’t play Mastermind as a child (with it’s black and white pegs) then the Gnome’s ‘help’ at the end with his “crowns and skulls” equivalent isn’t going to be much use to you either.  So just suck it up and take 151 points of stamina damage like a man.  A very dead man.  Or woman.  These reviews aren’t gender biased.


COMBAT ENCOUNTERS/OPPONENTS
Okay, so even with its paltry 21 combat encounters the creatures you face in DD are like the frikkin’ SAS!  Even if you didn’t end up crucified out the front, you’re by no means guaranteed an easy run.  From two 'dead end paragraph' results from measly Hobgoblins to the Mossad trained Pit Fiend, you’re in for some really tough fights.  And it doesn’t let up either.  Pinballing from one fight (Bloodbeast skill=12) to another (Manticore skill=11), your hero really goes through the ringer.  


Talking of the Bloodbeast, if you read the advice on it in the Red Leather book, you’re forced down the path of having to actually fight it for 2 combat rounds.  This guy has skill 12!  If your luck is in decent shape, you’re better off making a luck roll (to fall unconscious too far away from the Bloodbeast to tongue snare you), then a skill roll to run past his flappy tongue.


Anyway, back to the stats.  The average skill score may not seem like much at 8, but it takes some really high numbers to drag it up from 7, especially when you have only 27 creatures.  And like WoFM we have our highest skill and stamina values from one creature: that Pit Fiend.  I’m pretty sure the Warlock and the Pit Fiend get together and go bowling on their nights off.

One final thing, a statistic I’ve recorded but not programmed for yet is whether you can escape from combat.  In WoFM it’s 17 allowable escapes; FoD it’s 12; and DD it’s 3.  Yep, pretty harsh.  What’s more, 2 of those 3 escapes involve you actually hanging around for a bit first before you can leg it.


So Deathtrap Dungeon certainly earns it's name. Whilst this gamebook isn't a favourite of mine (I know, I know, I've just ostracised myself), I do appreciate the overall structure of it. Especially as it's not as random as I first expected.

As I've dissed it enough now, I think I might tackle Masks of Mayhem next. Stuart mentioned Crypt of the Sorceror as being the most difficult, so that's also an option. Anyone have any other suggestions and reasons why they'd like to see it statted?


(Dis)Honourable Mentions


Not to do with stats, this section is just about things I’ve spotted that seem odd or out of place or just worthy of pointing out for discussion.  Grouped by book.


Forest of Doom
In the Fire Demon’s cavern you come across a bunch of clones.  They’re operating some kind of fungi farm.  Demons are well known for their desire to project manage vegan plantations, but what I find totally unbelievable is this: you fight 4 Clone Warriors, but these guys all have different skill and stamina scores.  If they’re clones shouldn’t these scores be identical?


Why is the Catwoman wearing earrings?  She’s not a Werecat, so it’s not like she was wearing the earrings as a human and then transformed and then went to lie on a branch shortly before you happen upon her.  As a Catwoman she has opposable thumbs, so she can put the earrings in herself (or take them out).  It must be for vanity.  But if none of her possessions show a mirror, she must do it to attract a mate.  And to be fair, whenever I see a naked woman completely covered in thick body hair with feline features and a bad attitude, the first thing I look for are earrings.


Deathtrap Dungeon

At the start of the book it states that the Trial of Champions is a popular affair, attracting large crowds in the run up to and during the event.  What I don’t understand is the Trial is set deep in the side of a hill.  There are no viewing galleries.  So it’s not really a spectator sport.  What do these people do whilst it’s going on?  Chances are no-one’s going to come out the other side.  How long do they wait?  This is akin to turning on tv to watch Strictly Come Dancing, watching all the intro, the backstories, the build up and then seeing the screen go black for the next 8+ hours.  After an indeterminate time, the picture comes back on and shows an empty stage.  “No one won, thanks for watching!  See you next year”.  Yay.

The Caveman you fight near the start, he has skill=7. If you put on his bracelet you suddenly lose 4 skill points! Does that mean the Caveman actually had skill=11 naturally? Wow. He must be one of those Navy SEAL trained Cavemen you always hear about.

Finally, the Dwarven Trialmaster who gives you the anagrams to work out who to fight (either the Minotaur or Scorpion), who didn't choose Scorpion first time around. "Yeah, bring on that little sucker and I'll step on him". When the M1 Abrams sized scorpion rolls out and starts pincering you to death, the book clearly states GIANT SCORPION. That wasn't in the anagram! What a jip! Clearly a Trades Description Act violation if ever there was one. I'd complain except I've been scissored in two and have a gallon of venom inside me.

8 comments:

  1. try to raft it across a dangerous lake (surely the quickest end to an adventure short of trying to attack Yaztromo in FoD).
    There's an equally quick (technically even quicker, as it involves one less 'turn to') ending in Demons of the Deep, but in that instance the bad decision is a bit more obviously unwise.

    Another category worth listing would be Dice Deaths - those situations where you have to roll a die or two, not to test some attribute, but just to get a random outcome, and if you roll the wrong number, it's Game Over. If you do start listing Dice Deaths, it'd be good to also comment on the odds of getting a non-lethal number.

    You could possibly also list Deferred Dice Deaths, where the wrong number doesn't kill you on the spot, but guarantees your death at a later stage (Masks has at least one of them, with only a 1 in 6 chance of getting the right number - the shame just keeps on growing).

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    1. Thanks Ed, we'll put in a Dice Deaths column on the next run. Is it a progressively common thing then post gamebook 23 (relatively speaking, so at least once an adventure)? I don't know the books after Creature of Havoc at all (bar Battleblade Warrior). For sake of simplicity in presenting the data, I'll keep any Deferred Dice Deaths within the same column.

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  2. An interesting analysis of Deathtrap Dungeon (which I have to admit is my favourite FF gamebook - you heretic!); might I suggest its sequel, Trial of Champions, as another book worthy of analysis (my recollection of it is that it was even harder than its predecessor)? Seconding the suggestion for an analysis of Masks of Mayhem - that one was so hard, there seemed something almost mean-spirited about it. I like the way the story in it unfolds, and the reason for your quest gradually becomes (horribly) clear; what I didn't like, though, was the way that, as Ed alluded to above, to get one of the items vital for the successful completion of your quest, you had to make a dice roll you had only a 1 in 6 chance of succeeding at. Surely, being required to Test Your Luck (or better yet, simply make the right choice) at the appropriate moment would've sufficed instead? I also didn't like the number of "instadeath" paragraphs in it. While some made a certain sort of sense (eg you accidentally fall down an old mineshaft after taking a wrong turn while stumbling around an abandoned copper mine, silly fool that you are), others just seemed lazy or (again) mean-spirited. For example, being told that, after wandering off into the fog, you're never seen again (what's that all about?), or opening a leather pouch you find, and being informed: "The pouch has a poisonous snake in it. It bites you. You die. The end." WTF?!

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    1. Ok, you and Ed seal the deal. Masks of Mayhem it is. I'll stop trying to complete it legally and just stat the hell out of it! I can't seem to get past the plains fire. Well, that's the furthest I've made it. Looking forward to finding out what this 1 in 6 chance malarky is all about. Sounds quite cruel to be honest.

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  3. Oh, and I liked your (dis)honourable mentions section on FoD and DD. Some observations of my own I'd like to add are:

    Forest of Doom

    There is in that one, I recall, a paragraph where, after wading through a stream, you discover you have a number of leeches attached to you, which you remove by rubbing salt on them. After doing this, you're told to deduct 1 from your Provisions total. This implies that at least one of your meals consists entirely of salt. Yuck!

    Deathtrap Dungeon

    Like you, I always found myself wondering what the spectators did while "The Walk" was taking place, given that the whole thing takes place inside a hill. What's interesting, though, is that if you read the introduction to "Armies of Death", which takes place immediately after the events of "Trial of Champions", you're given the impression that the citizens of Fang already know what horrors lie within the dungeon that's put their town on the map. So what's to stop them from sharing (for a suitable number of Gold Pieces, of course) what they know to any future entrants in the Trial of Champions?

    In the introduction to Deathtrap Dungeon, it's said that Baron Sukumvit tested his deadly creation by picking "ten of his finest guards" and sending them, fully armed, into his dungeon, whereupon "they were never seen again". No doubt after this happened, his ten crappiest guards - the ones who spent all their time getting drunk, and smoking weed and opium - were feeling pretty good about their life choices!

    Another thing I noticed about Deathtrap Dungeon was that there are at least a couple of items you can pick up in it which are woefully underutilized. One is a jug of acid, which you'd think would be a useful weapon against the Bloodbeast, given your need to take out at least one of its real eyes. Unfortunately, you're not given the option of using it against that opponent (instead, the only monster you're allowed to use it against is one that if you find yourself facing it, it means you've taken the wrong path and might as well save yourself some time and bother by closing the book right there and then). Even more egregiously underutilized, though, is the "Ring of Wishes", which, again, you're only allowed to use in one specific part of the adventure (and, again, when you're on a wrong path to boot). Really, though, if you got a treasure like this, what would be stopping you from rubbing it (or whatever you need to do to activate it), and thinking, "I wish I could get out of this crummy dungeon, and win the 10,000 Gold Pieces while I'm at it"?

    Oh, and the Ninja opponent is seriously bad-arse. Interestingly, if he beats you, and you've picked up a certain couple of gems on your travels, he stands a good chance of winning the Trial himself!

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    1. Curses! I noted the ring, but forgot to add it. Never mind, you describe it brilliantly! Why would you save it and not just teleport yourself outta there, with 10,000 gold pieces!?

      I love the 'ten finest guards' point you made! You can see how that went behind the scenes:

      Captain: "Ahh, Brutus, you've done exceptionally well this year. Exceeded all expectations and you've earnt your bonus"
      Brutus: "Thank you Captain, these charity runs are done more for fun than anything else. And it's always satisfying building extra wings on the children's hospital, seeing their little faces light up..."
      Captain: "Well, the Baron has a special treat for you and the other blood donors group. Just choose 9 other men you feel are worthy and report to your station at dawn".

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    2. Another thing about Deathtrap Dungeon: I assume that it must be inspected by the Allansian equivalent of Trading Standards every year before they allow the Baron to put his posters up. Otherwise, how can competitors be confident that it is not impossible?

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  4. Another thing about Deathtrap Dungeon: it must be inspected by the Allansian equivalent of Trading Standards every year before they let the Baron put his posters up. Otherwise, how can competitors know that it is not impossible?

    ReplyDelete

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