Friday, 27 January 2017

Gamebook playthrough: "Seas of Blood" by Andrew Chapman, attempts 2 and 3

"Seas of Blood", Fighting Fantasy gamebook
After falling well short of beating Seas of Blood yesterday, I'm going to take another swing and try to get a little further.  This is 80s-style re-playability, where the thing is hard enough that it takes several attempts to get through.  If you enjoy that sort of thing, be warned: there are spoilers ahead.

This time out, the dice take a different turn on character creation.  My crew gets the maximum strike rating of 12, but has an average strength of 13.  My character's skill is just 7!  Stamina is also on the low side at 17, as is Luck (8).  Well, Fighting Fantasy is often about doing a little better each time, right?  This is the final spoiler warning: from here on out I'll be talking about the outcomes from decisions in the book.

I decide to set sail from Lagash, which is described as the dangerous option.  The idea is to use my only high stat (Crew Strike) in some profitable naval battles.  Unfortunately I run into two warships rather than merchantmen.  The Banshee outruns one vessel and crushes the other (no crew lost), but all I get for that trouble is five slaves.  On the bright side, I get the option to set sail to Enraki to pilfer the Priests of Asswr sel Dablo again.  Once there, I go for the over the mountain route.  The frontal assault option scares me and I seem to recall that the sneaky option is very dependent on a strong character - maybe I should have tried it last time?  On the trail, I decide to do some side-trekking and get the crew ambushed by shaggy white beasts (yetis?) who throw snowballs at us and kill a lot of pirates (-4 Crew Strength, down to 9).  The battle with the priests goes better.  Once again, it's over the wall, but with a tougher band of cut-throats the fight only costs 2 crew strength (down to 7) and brings the 85gp and ten slave reward.

Retracing the steps of my last cruise I go south and run into the booze on flotsam combo again (+2 crew strength, up to 9), then sail off to the Eastern Rim where the Banshee discovers a phosphorescent wreck.  My options are to check out the bow or the stern - deciding that this thing is haunted, irradiated, or both and not worth my life is not an option.  I opt for the stern because that's where I'd expect loot.  There's no loot, only sea sprites who spin some line about needing help which I swallow because I'm an idiot.  (This was a big mistake with a low skill character.)  The Sprites want me to retrieve the Skull of Salt from a "predatory Krell" and offer up a water-breathing potion to facilitate my death-wish.

In the Krell's cave, I take a turn-off and try stealing a Unicorn Skull.  The horn breaks off and restores Luck that I haven't used yet.  Then it's on to the Krell's chamber.  The art shows me that it's a big crustacean monster but it's not quite as tough as I expected.  Still too tough for my weak character.

0/2.  I feel like I'm really going down the wrong routes for my characters.  Last time I didn't use Skill at all, despite having 12.  This time I went down a Skill-dependent route to expose my low stat.  At least I'm learning the encounters.  During a break from the gamebook, I found out that my flatmate hasn't actually played Seas of Blood but just read it.  Shame!  I rolled up a new captain and crew while trying to forget the spoilers.  My Crew gets 12 Strike and 12 Strength, while the Captain had 12 Skill, 18 Stamina, and 8 Luck.  A little fragile, but it's hard to complain about 12s up front.

I set off to raid the western desert at first, because it's the option I haven't tried.  There, I get the option of raiding a dirt-poor village or waiting for a caravan that might not show up.  I decide to wait.  And wait.  Eventually the caravan shows up and its guards shoot some of my crew with 3-foot arrows (-2 Strength, down to 10), but they're quickly overwhelmed in the ensuing melee.  The loss in crew is off-set by 63 gold and a slave, but this wasn't really worth the time.  On the other hand, the crew get drunk on wine from the caravan, so at least somebody's happy.

After that incident, the Banshee sets off for the gambling pits of Calah.  I opt of the Punch Out game, dimly remembering that this is skill dependent.  I was correct and get to put 50gp on a "first blood" contest with an 11 Skill Ogre Champion.  This would be bad for most characters, but with 12 Skill I back myself and win!  The option to fight a more dangerous champion, though?  I'll pass on that and try the Dice.  But the stakes are higher there than I'd expected.  An old creditor confronts my character and demands that I stake the Banshee on a throw of the dice: roll a 7 and walk free, otherwise he'll seize the ship!  I roll and 8 but get the chance to fight my way out.  Cutting down the money-lender and his men costs 6 stamina (down to 12), but I get 63gp.  For the sake of completeness, I go to the Bataar Races and waste 40gp betting on useless lizards who wouldn't even know the taste of a staked goblin.  Not that I'm bitter.

Calah also offers up a hot tip.  Up-river lies the temple of the priests of the dead and I figure it's worth a shot.  This run is already looking too long in the log to beat the game, so I might as well do some exploring.  The crew are put off by the unsettling architecture of the shrine and don't go in.  My character scoffs at their superstitions and walks down the stairs into the bowels of the temple, where I am promptly killed by a 3 meter long leech!

That's 0/3, but aside from the debacle in the desert and taking a wrong turn in the temple, this was mainly playing to the character's strengths.  I'll get there.