The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 11)

In the previous episode of my Fighting Fantasy review series, I finished off the Fighting Fantasy releases of 1988 – an era when it seems like quantity was prioritised over quality, with some absolute clunkers slipping out (including Sky Lord, far and away the worst gamebook I have covered yet). There were some signs of hope – the best of the four books I covered in that article, Stealer of Souls, was really very good, perhaps the best Fighting Fantasy book I’d yet tackled in the series not written by Steve Jackson. On the other hand, a tepid contribution by Ian Livingstone – Armies of Death, most charitably described as an experiment which doesn’t quite work – highlighted how the scaled-back involvement of the series’ creators was causing issues.

Remember, Steve Jackson wrote his last gamebook for the Puffin series way back with Creature of Chaos, and Ian Livingstone’s contributions have become more and more sparse; in fact, we’ll only see one more gamebook by him in the remainder of the Puffin series. (He’d be credited with two solo works, but one of them was ghostwritten by Carl Sargent.) This time around, we have another clutch of gamebooks written by other parties, under the “Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone presents” banner. This has historically had mixed results; some of these gamebooks have been very good, some of them have been outright terrible, and of course you have the recurring issue where whenever you have a new person beginning to contribute to the series, they always seem to have a period of growing pains as they feel out best practice.

The four books in this review cover all the main Puffin-series releases for 1989 – that’s right, after this we’re out of the 1980s and coming into an era when increasingly sophisticated videogames become serious competitors with gamebooks when it comes to solo fun. That means Fighting Fantasy really needs to pull up its socks now if it’s going to keep up. Does the series manage this? Let’s see…

Portal of Evil

Scenario

For ages the dense forests at the foot of the Cloudhigh Mountains of Khul have been considered totally inhospitable to humans, occupied as they are by dangerous monsters and hordes of goblins. However, a while back an expedition from the frontier town of Kleinkastel went exploring the forest. The survivors came back with important news – there’s gold in them thar woods! The region has now become the hub of a gold rush, with Kleinkastel becoming a boom town and the centre of mining activities for the region.

Now, however, miners have been disappearing from their camps and villages within the forest. The mining leaders suspect that something is up; you’d previously passed on an offer to come to Kleinkastel and work as a caravan guard, but this sounds like a more serious matter, so as the adventure begins you are travelling into the outskirts of the forest, intent on reaching Kleinkastel and discovering what the problem is…

Portal of Evil is the second Fighting Fantasy book by Peter Darvill-Evans. His first one was Beneath Nightmare Castle, which I generally enjoyed, but knocked down a few marks for a slightly thoughtless recycling of racist tropes. Here Darvill-Evans looks like he is potentially getting into dodgy territory again. Having a gold rush naturally nudges the reader to think of the US one, so the gold being found in lands previously held by inhuman goblins is a little troubling. That said, the introduction does suggest that Darvill-Evans is entirely aware of the colonialist impulses associated with gold rushes, so maybe this will be handled better than expected.

Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 11)”

Love Is Real For Faces and Heels

You’re sick of your dead-end job at the drive-through chocolate milk stand in Billings, Montana. Why, here you are stuck working for a boss who doesn’t remotely respect you, whilst tonight at the Grand Billings Arena Riled In the Ring, the biggest event on the Buckaroo Championship Wrestling calendar, is unfolding. As your shift ends a chance encounter with Andy the Mammoth, legendary wrestler, inspires you to quit your job and head to the BCW tryouts. You’re determined not to miss next year’s Riled In the Ring – and you plan to be there not as a fan, but as a competitor! Before you get to that dream Riled In the Ring moment, however, you’ve decisions to make and challenges to overcome. Will you be a face or a heel? Will you prevail in the ring and justify a championship shot? And what of the plans of the owner of BCW, the notorious scoundrel Vinny Cobbler?

Chuck Tingle’s Select Your Own Timeline series of Choose Your Own Adventure-styled gamebooks continues with Decisions To Wrestle With. This is an apt choice of subject matter; one of the things which made Choose Your Own Adventure stand out back when I was younger was the way they touched on a broader range of concepts than a lot of gamebook series, and “You’re a (insert sport here) star” was one of the concepts they sometimes ran with. Chuck is likely also writing about what he knows here; he’s eased off on it lately, but there was a time a while back when he worked a pretty shrewd wrestling .gif game on his social media accounts, and the book suggests a level of knowledge of the field a bit deeper than “I used to be a casual fan but drifted away”.

Continue reading “Love Is Real For Faces and Heels”

The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 10)

At the end of my previous Fighting Fantasy article, I’d covered the first couple of Fighting Fantasy books released in 1988. It was evident that some attempt was being made to find new writers to contribute to the sequence, as a result of Jackson, Livingstone, and other stalwarts of the early series dialling back their contributions. In other words, the Fighting Fantasy crew were trying to counter the succession problem I’d identified at the end of part 8; for this part of the article, we’ll see that process continue, with two of the four books I’m covering this time coming from people who hadn’t written a mainline entry in the series at all. One of them will be of crucial importance to the later phases of the series’ tenure at Puffin; the other one… well, we’ll get to that.

The other two gamebook authors making a return this time are Luke Sharp and Ian Livingstone. Luke Sharp had put out two previous Fighting Fantasy books, both bad; Ian Livingstone had co-founded the series, but his subsequent gamebooks had been a bit hit-and-miss. Who’ll come out on top here – the old hand whose creative well might have begun to run dry through overuse, or the apprentice whose previous efforts were at best mediocre, at worst a flagrant waste of paper?

Sky Lord

Scenario

You are a solar trooper and secret agent named Sky Lord Jang Mistral, member of a four-armed humanoid warrior of the sixteenth aeon. As a member of the Ensulvar race, you serve mighty King Vaax. Recently, Vaax fell out with his former major-domo L’Bastin, who had been embezzling from the royal household to fund his cloning hobby and replacing household staff with mind-controlled clones to cover for this. Now L’Bastin has apparently established a weaponised clone laboratory and is churning out Prefectas, dog-headed super-warriors. You must board your starship, the Starspray, and root out this menace!

There’s no two ways about it: Sky Lord is weird. This is the sole Fighting Fantasy book in the mainline series to have been penned by Martin Allen, who had previously co-authored the Clash of Princes two-player gamebook with Andrew Chapman. After this, at least according to the database at gamebooks.org, he never wrote another gamebook, and it’s entirely possible that the bizarre nature of Sky Lord contributed to this.

Remember my Chasms of Malice review? How I hated that book! If you recall, one of the first red flags was the bizarrely terse introductory blurb, which came across more like brief notes than a fully fleshed-out introduction. (“I swear I finished my homework, Mr. Livingstone! Here it is!”) Here, again, the introductory material provides its own red flag, but of a rather different nature. It’s certainly vividly detailed and imaginative, but it’s also a farrago of utter nonsense, a total fever-dream version of a setting writeup. Perhaps the intention is for the gamebook to be a very deadpan parody, but if it is the writing style doesn’t quite manage to pull this off; it just gives the impression of absurd, arbitrary things happening largely at random. (Spoiler: this continues into the main adventure.)

Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 10)”

The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 9)

Once again I’ve gone back to the coalface to dig out another episode in my ongoing series reviewing the Fighting Fantasy line of gamebooks. This time around, we have the last two books to be released in 1987 and the first couple from 1988. As we’ve seen previously, we’ve entered a phase in the series where, despite their names being on most of the covers, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone had rather stepped back their day-to-day involvement with the franchise; Jackson had produced his final contribution to the series way back in 1986 with Creature of Havoc, and whilst Ian Livingstone would write a few more, he’d do so very infrequently.

As I outlined at the end of the previous article, this also coincided with a lot of the other writers of the better Fighting Fantasy books also bowing out of the series, creating a bit of a succession problem. We’re now well into the part of the series when third-party authors would contribute the bulk of the work (all of the books in this article were by writers other than Jackson and Livingstone), and when the pool of writers was being expanded (three of the four books I cover here are by writers who hadn’t previously written a Fighting Fantasy gamebook).

Midnight Rogue

Scenario

You are an apprentice of the Thieves’ Guild in Port Blacksand – the City of Thieves from the gamebook of the same name – and tonight is the night of your big test. To prove you’re worthy of graduating from your apprenticeship and becoming an accepted guild member, you must undertake the perilous mission of stealing the Eye of the Basilisk, a priceless gem known to be in the possession of the merchant Brass.

1987’s Midnight Rogue is notable for being the sole Fighting Fantasy book written by Graeme Davis, who WFRP fans will know as a co-designer of the original edition of that game; the same year would also see the release of his acclaimed WFRP scenarios Shadows Over Bögenhafen and Death On the Reik. As well as his WFRP duties, Davis was a fairly prolific writer for other Games Workshop lines at this time – he was a regular White Dwarf contributor, and another 1987 credit for him would be as one of a large team of contributors to the Green and Pleasant Land sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu.

It makes sense, then, that Jackson and Livingstone would get Davis to contribute to the Fighting Fantasy line, and it’s encouraging to see him present a scenario which breaks out of the “go defeat the latest Big Bad who wants to make trouble” rut that the series had become stuck in.

Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 9)”

The Terralon Diary, Part 4: Angry Cawing!

Time to check in again on my experience working through The Gates of Terralon, a linear RPG experience presented in the form of a desk calendar. Last time, I rescued some kids from a well, and the 1st February finds me getting to select a reward: either I go greedy and lose virtue in return for an amount of gold based on a die roll, or I go humble, get some virtue, and get to ride the wagon with the kids and their family to my destination, giving me a chunky die roll bonus for the upcoming trip. I chose the wagon.

On 2nd February we get to level up! This means we get better abilities, our hit points and other numbers go up, and we get to boost our stats. We only get 2 points of stat boosts and since stat rolls are on 1D20, this feels a little pointless – the range of variance is likely to be way beyond the magnitude of the penalties or bonuses we have on most of our stats. I blow my spend on cancelling my -2 penalty on Charisma starting out, since I figure the upcoming town visit is going to involve lots of social rolls.

One of my new spells allows me to spend a spell point to frighten people (via, I have to imagine, angry cawing), giving me a whopping +20 to Intimidation rolls. That’s basically auto-success, so why not call it that? I am beginning to not have confidence in the system design abilities of the designers here. Another new spell is sick good: I get to cast it, roll an extra D6 when rolling damage, and get those points back as health. Both of these seem way better than the “+2 to Defence” spell which is the sole one I get at level 1, which is weird because they don’t actually cost more spell points to cast and you would think that in terms of spell power, a 1 point spell should be roughly equivalent to other 1 point spells.

3rd February sees me enjoying the wagon ride to town, and on 4th February I intimidate the guards into letting me into town without shaking me down for money through the power of angry cawing. On the 5th/6th I get to look around the town a bit and see what’s on offer, and on the 7th I get to take a room at an inn and rest, which feels like a bit of a nothing day – these could have been combined into one sheet to get the story moving faster.

Continue reading “The Terralon Diary, Part 4: Angry Cawing!”

The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 8)

Time for another entry in my occasional series of Fighting Fantasy gamebook reviews. This time we’re moving on to the first four gamebooks in the series put out in 1987 – that’s right, the 28 books we’ve covered so far (24 in the mainline series and the four which form the Sorcery! quartet) all hail from 1982-1986, a tight range of years which covers a good many of the most iconic releases of the series. Part of this is because we’ve now gone through most of Ian Livingstone’s contributions to the books’ original run on Puffin and all of Steve Jackson’s, and it’s been Jackson and Livingstone’s books which have been most widely reprinted – books by other hands have been reprinted much more infrequently, I suspect because of contract issues rooted in the contracts used for third party writers.

In these later stretches of the main series, we’re going to be more and more focused on those third party authors. Take this selection: Livingstone only writes one of them. The other three are written by other hands, one of whom we’ve seen in these reviews before, two of whom are fresh faces who’d go on to pen several other Fighting Fantasy books.

Beneath Nightmare Castle

Scenario

The first of three Fighting Fantasy gamebooks by Peter Darvill-Evans (the other two are Portal of Evil and Spectral Stalkers) is set on the continent of Khul, which had been a bit of a dumping ground for fantasy gamebooks set in the Titan setting but which didn’t quite fit into the Allansia setting (where most of the fantasy books had taken place so far) or the Old World (which at this point in the series had only been used as the setting for Sorcery!). Allansia tended towards a fairly straight-ahead D&D-derived style of fantasy, whilst the Old World tended towards the sort of tone which the early Warhammer setting enjoyed; Khul, at this point, was a bit of a grab-bag. Books which had been set here so far included Scorpion Swamp, Seas of Blood, Sword of the Samurai, and Masks of Mayhem, all of which were by authors other than Steve Jackson (the UK one – the US one did Scorpion Swamp) or Ian Livingstone.

This time around, we don’t get much of a clue before we get into the adventure what it’s all about, beyond the fact that our character is a veteran warrior who once fought alongside brave Baron Tholdur, Margrave of the town of Neuburg. You and the Baron defeated the barbarians of the southern steppes, dissuading them from further incursions, and then went your separate ways – but bad luck on your most recent adventure has left you impoverished and hungry. Your one stroke of luck happened to be that you’re in hiking distance of Neuburg itself – so you’ve set out to visit the town and see how your old buddy is doing.

Just as you come in sight of the town, however, you are ambushed and captured by a band of southern barbarians – yes, part of the very same forces you and the Baron defeated previously. This doesn’t look good…

Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 8)”

The Terralon Diary, Part 3: Scavenger Hunt

Time to check in again on my experience working through The Gates of Terralon, a linear RPG experience presented in the form of a desk calendar. Last time, I finished the tutorial section (in which we fought some demons and met a big titty spider lady) and chose my PC for the main bulk of the adventure – a kenku avian necromancer called Mori’an Corvus.

The 19th January sees not much action – I have to roll 3D6 to determine my starting gold. I’m not altogether sure there’s much point to that – why not just give people a set amount of gold to start out with and use the day for something more substantial?

20th January sees me encountering a couple who are looking for their lost children. The choice here is basically to look for the kids out of the goodness of your heart (gaining Virtue) or doing it for mercenary reasons (gaining money at the cost of also gaining Vice) – there’s in theory a choice to reject the mission outright, but in practice this ends up being game mechanically pointless because you just get bribed into doing it anyway. Though in theory an interesting roleplaying decision, in practice the basically linear nature of the adventure means that it was never really likely that you’d be allowed to just skip the mission, and it feels pointless for the game to offer choices it can’t actually honour.

I chose to look for the kids for free because a) I rolled OK for starting gold so it’s not like I’m hurting for money and b) I am a scavenger bird and a necromancer, the way I see it I can either find live kids to earn some kudos or dead kids who I can practice my magic on or use as a light snack. Either way, it’s a fitting use of my talents. 21st January sees me doing some skill checks along the way – I found a bit of gold and I also spotted animal tracks. Uh-oh, other scavengers are after that delicious carrion! On the 22nd and 23rd I have a quick fight with some wolves which are, thankfully, significantly wimpier than the demons from the tutorial section, and I am able to brazen through it unscathed.

On the 24th January I get to exercise my Intelligence Intellect stat a little by investigating an abandoned cabin, which the kids’ footprints were headed towards. I find various abandoned gold pieces and also evidence that the children fell down the well. Odds of snack: increasing. I spend the 25th January climbing down the well, and on the 26th I find a tunnel down there – with a poisonous homunculus lurking within. Judicious use of a spell point wards off damage (and the threat of becoming poisoned, which would cause me to take damage on failing a roll each calendar day until I got cured).

The 27th is a brief dungeon crawl and then on the 28th I find the kids, alive. Guess I’m not going to have any tasty snacks or necromantic endeavours this time around. The kids are tied up – sorry, it says “tide up”, my mistake – but aside from being adrift on the ocean wave (somehow), they are also bound by rope which I must undo. This ends up being a force-you-to-do-skill-checks-until-you-succeed situation as you try different methods. If you try cutting the ropes and fail you don’t harm the kids but you do lose 1 health, which means that if you roll very unluckily it’s possible to die trying to release the sprogs, especially if you got mauled badly by the monsters on the way in here.

Speaking of monsters, on the 29th/30th January we see who’s captured the kids – it’s a pair of creepy old hags, who I successfully fight. The month closes on the 31st as I bash myself up trying to wrangle the tubby little troublemakers back up the well.

So far, without having had an opportunity to acquire equipment and with limited spells available, it doesn’t feel like the game’s offered me a whole lot which I didn’t already see on the tutorial, but let’s see how the next month goes. Now that I’ve got the measure of how much action I can expect, I think I will now shift to updating on a monthly basis unless something I have a whole lot to talk about happens partway through a month, in which case I might do an early update to enthuse or rant about it. See you at the end of February!

The Terralon Diary, Part 2: Crow Selection Phase

Time to check in again on my experience working through The Gates of Terralon, a linear RPG experience presented in the form of a desk calendar. Last time, I kicked off the early-year tutorial, and this time I’m going to cover the rest of it.

On the 8th/9th January (remember, Saturday and Sunday are on the same page), there’s not much to do but roll a Constitution check to not lose my lunch going through the dimensional gate, which I succeed. Fine, cool, one step closer to making a horrible hubristic mistake by trying to destroy the demon realm with a big magical bomb.

10th January has me giving a pep talk to my troops, which I succeed at – meaning I’ll get a bonus on my rolls in the combat that happens on 11th January. That proves handy, because it’s a tough fight against no less than 4 demons, but I end up slaying two of them and taking damage from the other two (prompting me to quaff my healing potion). Then a series of unlucky rolls meant I got battered by the flying boss demon on 12th January.

13th January offered an honest to goodness dungeon crawl: the sheet for the day shows a little map with each room numbered, and I have to pick my route through the dungeon and resolve the rooms I go through. It ends up being zero-sum: I successfully find a healing potion in a demonic sacrificial altar, which I instantly quaffed (erm, seems a bit dodgy to be drinking potions sourced from there but OK, I won’t pass up 4HP) and then I failed to defend myself against a monster and lost the hit points the potion gave me.

14th January is a couple of skill checks: the first determines whether or not I get a small penalty to the second one, the second one determines whether I lose 2HP to an ambush from a demonic guardian or not. This feels kind of low-stakes to me, so let’s move on to 15th/16th January where I fight the demonic gate guardian.

The demonic gate guardian is a big titty spider lady. She looks rather feral and I think she’s meant to be topless; the illustration of her here doesn’t show nipple, but I wouldn’t confidently say it’s 100% unambigiously safe for work either, which feels like a weird choice for a game presented in a desk calendar which could conceivably be used in someone’s workplace. Anyway, I evade her bite but still take a bunch of damage as she squeezes me with her many legs, like she’s Pris from Blade Runner multiplied by four or something. I am very low on hit points now, but I am just about hanging in there, so come the 17th January I get to the end of the tutorial – intact, but barely. The bomb is set and we cut away right as it’s about to go off. Everything’s going to be fine, right? No need to worry about Commander Barrington just because we’ve not witnessed the cosmos-shattering kaboom, right?

That means come 18th January we get to pick our main character for the actual quest! The Sundial Games website provides rules for generating your own character if you wish, but I think I’ll pass. They have apparently been doing modelling runs and, per the Kickstarter update they posted on the subject, they found that more than half of all the characters produced fully randomly ended up dying way more often than intended, but they also found that if they made custom characters whose abilities had good synergy with each other they vastly outperformed the pregens. If it’s too easy to miss the sweet spot, maybe the rules need a bit more refinement?

In addition, given that the whole ethos of the game is that you do a little bit of play per day rather than sitting down and poring over a character gen system, I’m more than happy to grab a pregenerated character so all the work is done for me. Neatly, the companion booklet not only provides a large version of the character sheets, and the background blurbs, but also provides the higher-level versions of the characters.

Anyway, if the system hadn’t already had ample D&D 5E influence, the various pregens on offer seem to be very much the sort of quirky character beloved by the kids these days, with aesthetics and creature types often clearly lifted from existing D&D lore with suitable names changed. You have a warforged machine-person artificer, a human “cleric” who is clearly intended to be a paladin (don’t think Wizards can control the use of paladin, buds), a dragonborn draakon elementalist wizard, a tabaxi feline monk, a kenku avian necromancer, and a tiefling half-demon swashbucker.

I’m going to go with Mori’an Corvus, the avian necromancer, mostly because his backstory is hilarious:

Mori’an was born with a unique gift. As a hatchling, he pushed a younger sibling out of the nest to see what would happen. When she died from the fall, he was there to bring her back from the dead. He has been fascinated with death ever since.

And there, with our selected pregen travelling to the settlement of Graycliff to take part in a tournament there, I think I will leave things off for the time being. I think I will do my next episode of this series to cover the rest of January, and then from there switch to a monthly update schedule.

The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 7)

It’s time for another entry in my infrequent series of Fighting Fantasy gamebook reviews. This time around, we’re going to wrap up the rest of the series’ gamebooks from 1986. We’re now four years after the series has released, but there’s a sense that the early boom is beginning to plateau – six gamebooks were released in 1986 (two of which I reviewed in my previous article in this series), but that’s less than the 1985 peak (7 mainline gamebooks plus the final volume of Sorcery!), and the quality is starting to get a bit hit and miss.

This time around, I’m going to get to cover four gamebooks from four different authors, each of whom applies a different approach to their gamebook-writing craft. The main common factor is, as always, that in whatever the scenario is YOU are the hero…

Trial of Champions

Scenario

Ian Livingstone’s first Fighting Fantasy book since Temple of Terror is a sequel to Deathtrap Dungeon. Baron Sukumvit has redesigned his infamous dungeon and is offering his challenge once again. You have no intention of participating – but Lord Carnuss, the Baron’s good-for-nothing brother, has his eye on the prize purse! He therefore has kidnapped a range of warriors – including you – and sets them against each other in a grand elimination tournament until only one is left. The sole survivor will be Carnuss’ champion in the Deathtrap Dungeon challenge; should you survive, it is only by mastering Baron Sukimvit’s maze that you’ll have a chance to take down Lord Carnuss. There, nice and simple.

Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 7)”

The Terralon Diary, Part 1: Are You Sure Blowing Up Bits of the Cosmos Is a Good Idea, My Liege?

Hello folks, as promised I’m going to spend 2022 working my way through The Gates of Terralon, a linear RPG experience presented in the form of a desk calendar. Here’s how the first week of that went.

Office tear-off desk calendars, of course, often combine Saturday and Sunday into one sheet, and the Quest Calendar series is no exception, so since this year starts on a Saturday we’re off to a slow, gentle start. The calendar opens by explaining to us that before we choose a PC, we’ll go through a short tutorial section playing an assigned character just for that part, and encouraging us to familiarise ourselves with the rules for this first couple of days. OK, fair enough.

3rd January introduces us to our character for this tutorial: Commander Royce Barrington, commander of the king’s armies in the fight against a rampaging demon horde. No character sheet is given for him in the accompanying hero book, since we’ll only be playing him for a bit – his stats are on the back of the sheet for 3rd January – but I will use the blank sheet in the Hero Book to record his stats since it’s a bit sturdier than the 3rd January sheet (and it gives me an early chance to see how wipe-clean the markers actually are).

4th January finds the King explaining our mission to us: apparently we’re going to do a surgical strike which will shut down the demons’ link to our world, leaving them unable to enter. Apparently the King and I are both devotees to the god of Law but regard the existence of demons as a sort of divine mistake, so I guess we’re going to eat a big heap of hubris by the end of the scenario.

As the King explains the mission, we roll our stat bonuses on 1D4. The stats are the standard D&D stats, so I suspect the system is going to turn out to be a take on 5E with some of the D&D sacred cows like stats scaling from 3-18 removed – kind of like how True20 also reduced stats to just bonuses, though by my recollection True20 doesn’t randomly generate stat bonuses on a flat die roll – something you do here, and which will seem to result in swingier stats because you lose the bell curve. That said, all my stats are 2s and 3s – the teeny tiny D4 that came with my set doesn’t roll that well, then again D4s generally don’t.

Something I also noted today is that the sheets in the hero book are very good at the whole wipe-clean thing – maybe too good. I’m left-handed, so I kept smudging out stuff as I wrote, and I worry that if I flip to another page in the book to consult the rules I’ll end up smudging my sheet. Probably good that I retained the rules sheets from the calendar for quick consultation too.

5th January is easy enough – it’s weapon selection time. Weapon choice determines an attack bonus, a defence total, and a damage die: I chose a Greataxe, which doesn’t have the best damage but offers decent attack and defence scores. Then on 6th January we get our first skill check – a survival roll to see how our journey to the Sun Temple where our mission is to take place goes in terms of ration consumption. Again, 5E influence is seen here – we have to roll a D20, add our Wisdom modifier, and remember to add our bonus for being an expert at survival stuff. (Neatly, the skill check blurb includes a reminder of what bonuses are applicable.)

7th January gives us a chance to have our first fight – we need to get past the guardian of the Sun Temple by fighting them. We get one round to attack and defeat them, if we don’t defeat them we still get in but are injured by them along the way, we can get a bonus by correctly answering a riddle. This is all nicely communicated. What’s also being communicated is that this guy is a servant of the cosmic force of law, like we’re meant to be, and we’re trying to invade some manner of divine otherworld as part of the big plan to use a massive bomb to destroy the route demons take to get to our world. I’m starting to think our King might not be on the level!

Anyway, that’s the first week’s fun settled. I can already see that doing this on a week-by-week basis might not generate enough material for each article, so rather than do another 7 days before next article in this series, I’ll instead drop another article once I have completed the tutorial section and selected my “real” PC for the adventure to come, which flipping ahead I see should be within the next couple of weeks or so.