This is the first book in the series and as such the first I am going to attempt to play/read. As a kid I remember there is a maze in this book that is a real bitch and sent me round and round in circles for ages so I’m not looking forward to that..
In this book I play a character who is looking for fame and fortune by travelling to a dungeon and stealing the horde of a warlock. Apparently this is going to make me a local celeb so who am I to argue? I have rolled up my character, who looks like this:
So, could be better – that skill score is a bit low but that stamina is quite beafy so I reckon I have a chance here.
As I set off, I am immediately given a choice of turning east or west. hmm… I randomly decide to turn left towards west. Almost immediately I see an Orc asleep at his post so I bravely sneek past and avoid waking him. Before long I arrive at a door and decide to check it out. I see another Orc asleep on a bed. Perhaps I should sneek back out and leave the creature be but then a box on the floor catches my eye. Remembering what my quest is, I decide I should try and pilfer the box – thankfully I am getting quite good at sneeking around and leave without waking the Orc. On opening the box, I find a gold piece, and bizarrely, a mouse. The mouse runs away but I am pleased to have thieved some gold!
Further down the corridor I see another door. I decided to break into this room too but it is deserted. I see another box so decide to nick this too. Sadly, however, I open the box to find a snake. Not sure how all these animals are surviving in these boxes but with a quick flash of my sword, the snake lies dead. On further investigation I find a key with the number “99” stamped on it. This sounds promising, so I pocket the key.
Further down the corridor is a third door, I can hear singing coming from inside and see some Orcs drinking and having a good time. They are both very drink so I quickly slay them both. After wiping their blood off my sword I see another box and am delighted to find a nifty dragon fire spell. I suspect this will come in useful too so I stash this into my backpack.
After a few more twists and turns I come to a door at the end of the corridor. I barge into a room where some Orcs are having tea. Following with my theme of being rewarded for attacking first and asking questions later I slay 5 of them and am pleased to find a silver bow and arrow. Might come in useful later.
The next door I come to is a little harder to get through as it seems to be locked and my pitiful skill score means I can’t batter it down. Ho-hum, on to the next one. The next one is locked too but I managed to break this door down to find an armory. There is a funky shield that helps me a bit in combat so I take this with me, swapping it for the one I already have. The last door in this corridor is not locked and I stride in to see two Goblins torturing a man of limited height to death. Nice. I decide to avenge him by killing them and after rifling through their pockets, I find some cheese! I trouser this valuable treasure and continue on my way.
Before long I come to a portcullis and a some levers. I decide to randomly pick the lever on the right side and this seems to work as the portcullis moves to allow me through. I wonder what the left lever does… I continue east when given the choice and see a bench. I sit down and restore some stamina. At the next branch I go right again and end up at a door. I enter and see a large iron statue with a gemstone for an eye. I know full well what is likely to happen here if I try and take the gem but once a thief, always a thief and I can’t stop myself from trying to pinch the stone. Predictably enough the statue comes to life and is actually an iron cyclops – I fight it but the monsters are notably tougher in this part of the dungeon and it does me some damage before I kill it and steel it’s gem. I am told it is worth 50GP so I take it and more importantly, also find another key, this time with the number “111” printed on it. This, I am sure, will be useful later on.
So far things seem to be going OK, my slightly week skill score, apart from not being able to enter one of the rooms, has not let me down too much and I have found 2 keys so far. Good progress.
I backtrack from this room and head north, coming to another room. As soon as I am in the room, I am attacked by a Barbarian. I manage to kill this mad freak easily enough and am rewarded with some sharpened wooden sticks and a mallet. Hmm… I smell a vampire!
The next room I come to is where things start going pear shaped. I see some pictures, including one of the warlock whose treasure I am planning on stealing so I stupidly stop to have a look at the artwork. It makes me come over all strange and I lose a skill point. I then make matters worse by looking into my backpack to use something against the painting. I briefly consider throwing cheese at it but opt instead for putting a wooden stake through it. I lose the stake (I still have four more though, I think) but I lose yet another precious skill point, with my skill now looking rather precarious at 7.
In the next room I find some rope so naturally I try and pocket this useful looking item. Sadly the rope comes alive and tries to strangle me so I get lucky and throw it to the floor before leaving the room. I get a strong feeling that things are not working out so well anymore!
I then come to an open cavern and some water. I am given some options but decide to ring the bell for the boatman. His advertised fee is 2GP, I only have one (plus the gem – not sure if I allowed to chip bits off and use that so I decide I can’t) but I figure I can probably barter him down. Wrong. He wants three and when I reveal I can’t pay he gets a but angsty and to cut a long story short I end up having to kill him…. It turns out he was a ware rat but I steel his boat anyway and get to the other side. I really need to rest now as my stamina is precariously low…
As I enter the next room, I am immediately knocked unconscious and when I come to I can see 4 Zombies standing motionless. I decide that this could be a fight too far and try and escape. This doesn’t work, however, so I have to fight them. I somehow manage to emerge victorious with a lot off luck usage and am blissfully happy to find some rum which restores a lot of my stamina! (just like in real life).
Through the door I come to some sort of crypt – ah, this must be the vampire that the wooden stakes are for. Given my skill of 7, however, I don’t fancy this fight so manage to slip out of a door to the side of the room. I then wander the corridors before walking down a flight of stairs. When I enter the room I see some bodies lying on the ground. I just can’t help myself as I decide to try and steel from them. Sure enough, one moves and bites me. It is now attacking me. It has a similar skill level but less stamina. Ominously however, if it gets hits on me it will paralyse me. Sure enough, this is what happens and I am paralysed before being eaten alive by the Ghoul. A fitting end.
Overall thoughts: It is almost impossible for me to post a subjective review of this book due to the nostalgia I feel when I read it. I do think that the book conjours up a good image of a dungeon and it has imaginitive encounters. The gameplay is very fair, and there do not seem to be many enounters that are unwinnable. I remember the maze being very irritating and there are some rules that have been changed for later books – only being able to eat provisions when instructed is one.
So, interesting & fair encounters, good imagery and steeped in nostalgia – 7/10