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[Let's Play] GrailQuest 1: The Castle of Darkness
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SGamerz
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 2:58 pm    Post subject: [Let's Play] GrailQuest 1: The Castle of Darkness Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List



Written by J. H. Brennan, the Grailquest gamebook series is most notable for its distinct flavour of wacky humour. They can make a fun ride.....when they're not too bug-ridden.

The player takes the role of a young man named Pip, adopted son of a farmer and his wife.....well, actually, the player is basically him/herself reading the books, and summoned by Merlin's spell into King Arthur's era so that the player's mind occupies Pip's body. Basically, in these books, every time the realm encounters a problem or threat that's too big for the Knights of the Round Table to handle, Merlin summons Pip as the sacrificial lamb hero to take care of it, after teaching him some magic and arming him with a lesser version of King Arthur's magic sword (Excalibur) named Excalibur Jr. Oh, and the sword talks.

For the first book, here's what the quest is about, from the back cover blurb:

Quote:
In the fabled Realm of Avalon, the great King Arthur keeps court at Camelot. The far reaches of his kingdom are terrorised by monstrous dragons and powerful warlocks, and the famous Knights of the Table Round set forth on quests of valour to combat the forces of evil. But YOU have been chosen for the most perilous mission of all. To penetrate the enchanted fortress of the dreaded Wizard Ansalom and rescue Queen Guinevere from his sorcery.


One of the distinct flavor of this series is that Merlin explains the rules of the game to you from the beginning bit by bit in the (very long) Prologue sections even as the story is being told to the player. 1/3 of the introduction takes up about 10 pages. Fortunately, there're also cards at the end of the book summarizing the mains rules:

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


Here's the first part of the introduction, for those of you who hadn't read the series before, to give you a feel of what they're like:

Quote:
Sit still--I want to cast a spell. And don't fidget! You know how fidgeting upsets me. No, you don't. But you will. Yes, indeed. It's easy to upset people my age. I'm much older than you. I'm also dead. I died hundreds of years before you were even born. But a little thing like that won't make a lot of difference. That's what being a Magician is all about.

About the spell. You can't see me, of course. You can't hear me. But you can read what I write. Yes indeed. Are you nervous? You ought to be: it's a very powerful spell. I don't do this one very often: takes too long. Some spells you just mumble a word. Others you just wave a wand. But this one you have to write a whole spell book. The book you're holding, just for one spell! I'm nearly too old for this length of spell, but the King insists. Something has to be done about Ansalom.

You're going to have to help, you know. You can't just sit there reading the spell book. Not if you're going to be a big time Magician like me and spend your life being bossed around by the King. No, help is needed. I don't have a body in your Time, that's the trouble. So I need an assistant to fetch things for me. You. You're my assistant. Apprentice, really.

(Sit still. Don't fidget.)

You'll have to get a quill and some parchment. A goose quill. Peacock quills are pretentious. We'll leave that sort of nonsense to Wizards like Ansalom. A goose quill. And a little knife to sharpen it. And some powders and water to mix the ink. Or a pencil and paper would do, if you can't find a goose.

You'll also need two dice. Or one if you can't find two. One will do nicely, but two would be better if you can find them. Ordinary dice. Six sides, little spots. You must have them somewhere. Bring them back here and between us we'll cast the spell.

Back? Good. I'd better tell you about the spell, I suppose, now that you're my Apprentice. I'm going to cast it over you. Don't panic. It's the sort of spell that has to be cast over somebody. Otherwise nothing happens. Nothing at all. Complete waste of a good spell.

I'll tell you what the spell does. It takes you away from where you are now, away from your Time. Well, it takes most of you. The inside you. It leaves your body where it is, so if your parents look over they won't know you've gone. But you will be. Yes, indeed. The inside you won't be in your own Time at all. It'll be in mine. When the inside you gets to my Time, I'll just pop it into another body. Quite a nice one. A young person, much like yourself, except better looking. And stronger. I can't make you any smarter, but you'll just have to put up with that.

Once you're in that other body, you'll be able to move around in it and get it to do things, just like your own. You'll be able to see what things were like in my Time. I think I can even arrange it so you get to meet the King. King Arthur. Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther. Quite a nice man, if he wasn't so bossy. (Younger than me, but then everybody is.) You'll also get to meet knights, and have adventures. You may even get to meet me if I'm not too busy.

You can get back to your own body at any time, of course. You just go. It's very simple. And when you want to come back to my Time, you just continue reading this spell book where you left off. No trouble at all.

You'll enjoy living in my Time. The food's better for one thing. And there's a lot of action. Quests. Battles. Adventures. That sort of thing. Knights in armour clanking around all over the place. Horses--a lot of horses. Castles. Keeps. Fortresses. Towers. And peasants (a smelly lot). We even have a few dragons left. Not many, but in your Time they've died out altogether. And there's a lot of magic about in my Time: much more than in yours. The conditions here are better for working magic. You'll enjoy living in my Time for a time. If you don't get yourself killed.

That's the deal. That's the spell. But there are a couple of things you have to do before we're off. Both these things involve arithmetic.

When you arrive in my Time, you won't have any LIFE. No LIFE means you can't do anything. Which isn't much of an adventure. So the thing to do is get a bit of LIFE together before you set off. I'll tell you what to do.

First, you take your dice and roll them together. Now, add the two scores. Now multiply your answer by 4. Write down your answer, because that's the number of LIFE POINTS you will have on your adventure when the spell is cast. You'll find you won't have less than 8 or more than 48. (I know that because I'm a Magician.)

If you aren't very happy with your score, then roll the dice again. See if that's any better. In fact, you can roll the dice three times altogether and pick the best score out of the three. If you've only got one die to begin with, that's no problem. Instead of rolling the two dice, roll one die twice and add the scores together, then multiply by 4. It's the same thing in the end.

I nearly forgot something. You have to learn to Fight. You won't last long in my Time if you don't know how to fight. Nobody does. Knights who can't fight get killed off every five minutes. You find bits of them all over the place. Can't have my Apprentice ending up like that.

The way you fight in my Time is a bit peculiar. You have to roll dice. Two dice together, or one die twice. Doesn't matter which. If you score more than 6 on your two rolls added together, it means you've hit your enemy. Landed him a whopper on the snout or wherever. How about that? If you score 6 or less, it means you swing wildly and missed altogether. It happens. When I was a lad and fighting all the time, I often missed.

Supposing you do hit him--what then? Well, for every point you score above 6, you do him that much damage. If you roll 7 you do him 1 point of damage. If you roll 8 you do him 2 points of damage, and so on. But don't cheat. Cheating messes up the spell. Every point of damage you score against your enemy is subtracted from his LIFE POINTS. Unless he's wearing armour, in which case damage is score against his armour until you've broken through it. After which all further damage is scored against his LIFE POINTS.

Now pay attention, this is important. When your enemy has only 5 LIFE POINTS left, he will fall down unconscious. If he has NO LIFE POINTS left, you've killed him. Deceased as a door nail.

All this is what happens if you are pounding away at your enemy with your fists. If you happen to be hacking away at him with a sword, or poking at him with a spear, or bonking him with a club, you will score Extra Damage. But don't worry about that just now. You'll learn how to use swords and things when you come into my Time. You'll also learn magic, but that's another story.

Fighting is easy, isn't it? In fact, so far as I can see, there's only one real problem with it. While you're thumping your enemy, he (or she--women were very dangerous in my Time) will almost certainly be thumping you back. Turn and turn about. That's the way it goes.

Your opponent will fight exactly the way you do: by throwing dice. (Except you'll have to throw them for him, of course, since you're the one with the dice.) If he throws above 6 he's managed to hit you. And every point above 6 scores 1 damage against you--subtracted from your LIFE POINTS (or your armour, then your LIFE POINTS) until you have 5 left, when you fall unconscious, or none left, when you're dead.

All right, that's all you need to know about Fighting for the time being. But before I start to cast my spell, I'd better tell you about Sleeping. Sleep is the way to get your LIFE POINTS back. You can Sleep any time in my Time. (Except in the middle of a fight, of course.) And every time you Sleep successfully, you get back two dice rolls worth of LIFE POINTS.

There's a snag though. To go to Sleep you roll one die. If it comes up 1, 2, 3 or 4, you're headed for the Dreamtime, which you'll find at the back of this spell book. And in the Dreamtime you're quite likely to get yourself killed. But that's the way the barm brack bounces. When you need a couple of dice rolls of LIFE POINTS you take your chances with the Dreamtime and just hope you throw a 5 or 6.

I nearly forgot something else. When you come to my Time, your name will be Pip. I can't help that. It's the name of the body I picked for you. When the King was young, they called him "Wart". Don't ever dare tell him I told you.

Finally, you've got to learn about EXPERIENCE. You collect 1 point of EXPERIENCE every time you win a fight or solve a puzzle. Count them carefully, because every 20 EXPERIENCE POINTS give you 1 PERMANENT LIFE POINT. And you can add a PERMANENT LIFE POINT to your total LIFE POINTS even if it brings you higher than you were when you started out. What's more, you can take up to 10 PERMANENT LIFE POINTS with you into other adventures and add them to whatever LIFE POINTS you happen to roll up. And by the by, a really heroic deed can often earn you more than 1 EXPERIENCE POINT.

This is nearly everything you need for your adventure. You can learn how to use Bribery and how to test for Friendly Reactions as you go along. These Rules--and all the others--are on the card at the back of the book, so you can cut it out and use it as a bookmark.

Now the Spell.


I'm waiting to see if there're any interest in this before I post the remaining walls of texts.

As you can see from the rules posted, the author knows very well the common practices of most young gamebook players and thus makes allowance for some "cheating" that often takes place. Big Grin Don't like the stats you rolled the first time? Fine, you get to re-roll them twice more and pick the best! Got killed and don't want to replay all the early parts again? Ok, monsters you've already fought before don't have to be fought again! Occasionally, the book even tells you that if you trigger a trap, who won't trigger it again during a replay (although that doesn't always happen).

So, any interest in playing this one?
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MisterDee
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I played that entire series. They're pretty good as I recall except for the last one. The humour is however terrible throughout (although in my case the humour was transalted into French, with predictable horrific results.)
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Darth Rabbitt
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'd be interested.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Oh, I remember these, or rather starting the second and I think fifth (the one with the magic dice house and the city of dwarves) in the series, and being able to finish the 5th by cheating and not finishing the second at all. Lot of annoying instant kills.

Same person went on to do the demonspawn series, IIRC.

I'd be interested, yes.
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SGamerz
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

MisterDee wrote:
I played that entire series. They're pretty good as I recall except for the last one. The humour is however terrible throughout (although in my case the humour was transalted into French, with predictable horrific results.)


I actually find the last book (8th?) to be an improvement over Books 6 & 7 especially since one of those was designed in a way that I'd consider bugged. The first 4 were pretty fun, going by my vague memories, although.....

Thaluikhain wrote:
Oh, I remember these, or rather starting the second and I think fifth (the one with the magic dice house and the city of dwarves) in the series, and being able to finish the 5th by cheating and not finishing the second at all. Lot of annoying instant kills.


.....yeah, arbitrary instant deaths are fairly common in these books. The humour may not be to everyone's taste, of course, but to me they make the randomness of those instant deaths more tolerable, simply because they just.....feel like a good fit.

Anyway, now that some interest has been shown, let's roll up our Life Points:

First roll: 6
Second roll: 4
Third roll: 8

So I guess we'll use the 3rd roll, which gives us 8x4 = 32 starting LP!

And now we proceed to the next part of the intro.....

HINTS FOR THE GAME:
Quote:
1. Once you get into the Dark Castle, it's a good idea to draw a map. This lets you see where you've been and stops you getting lost. For your map, the top of the page will be North, the left side will be West, the right side will be East and the bottom will be South. As you move through the various Sections, draw in the corridors and rooms described. You don't have to go into detail (unless you want to), but do note the Section numbers on your map and the main things you find in the various places.

2.This is your adventure. As you wander around the Castle (drawing your map) you'll learn more and more about its layout. Don't be afraid to go back to an earlier Section if your map shows this is possible for you. You are free to wander about as much as you like just so long as you know where you're going and the way has not been blocked.

3. The adventure gets tougher as it goes along. This means you would be well advised to hold on to your big weapons )especially the Fireballs) until you are face to face with Wizard Ansalom. You don't have to, of course, but it's usually a good idea.

4. For the same reason, it's not a bad idea to save as many of your Healing Potions as possible. But Healing Potions are tricky. If you try to hold on to them too much you can find yourself killed off at far too early a stage. Generally, use a Healing Potion when you are getting worried about the low level of your LIFE POINTS, not when you've only lost 1 or 2. Remember, you always have the option of regaining LIFE POINTS through Sleep. This can be risky since there's always the possibility of encountering a Sleep Monster with dire results to your general health. But the times you sleep peacefully will get you back some LIFE POINTS without using your Healing Potions at all.

5. This is a very special hint. There may be times in the Dark Castle when you feel you have explored absolutely everywhere and there is still no sign of the Queen or even Wizard Ansalom. This is because Ansalom is a tricky old Wizard and his Castle is full of unexpected twists and turns. It is entirely possible that you will miss an important or secret door or corridor somewhere. So if you reach a point where you have explored absolutely everywhere, use your map to go back to earlier Sections and take a second look at possible directions you may have missed first time. This is important. You may as well know it is very difficult to find the Queen and Wizard Ansalom first time.

6. If you are running low on LIFE POINTS and find yourself in a dangerous situation, always try for a Friendly Reaction, even though the chances of receiving one may be small. Bribery is also possible in the sections marked * B.

7. Make a note on your Quest Journal of any objects you find or take with you on your journey but do not use. These may well come in very handy in any future Grailquest adventures.


Regarding Sleep and Dreamtime...personal experience is that it's seldom worth it unless we manage to find a certain item that gives us some modifiers to our dice roll, because as you can see, the chances of actually regaining LP is only 1/3. Dreamtime is essentially something of a Random Encounter (Dream) table where we roll 2 dice to determne what we encounter in our dreams. We almost always have to roll dice to resolve those dream encounters and there's always chances of losing more LP instead of regaining them, and even if we roll successfully in Dreamtime we still wake up without regaining any LP so....yeah, not something I'd rely on too often.

I will post the Dreamtime sections when we actually use it (they're on separate pages at the back of the book).

And now we get into the story proper. Certain parts of the prologue (usually where Pip isn't directly involved) are often told in the 3rd person (like the upcoming section) POW. Once the game begins proper, it goes from 2nd person POV like most other gamebooks.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


THE REALM OF AVALON:
Quote:
It was a wonderful age to live in, despite the dangers. Pendragon's son, King Arthur by name, was on the throne of Avalon, ruling by the right of his great sword Excalibur, which he had drawn from the stone as a boy when strong me could not move it. Arthur brought peace of a sort to the Kingdom. Before his time, the local lords fought and squabbled among themselves like geese so that there was scarcely a minute's quiet from one year's end to the next. But Arthur changed all that; and with just one marvellous invention. Chivalry.

A strange thing, Chivalry. Or strange when Arthur introduced it. We've become accustomed to it now, so that it seems a law of nature, like gravity or the way birds fly south in summer. But in those days it was a strange idea. Then, if you were strong and wanted something that belonged to somebody who was weak, you took it. And if you were a knight and saw a maiden being carried off by a dragon, you let it eat her. (Aye, and if you were that same maiden, the chances were you let it eat you, instead of sticking up for yourself as any self-respecting maiden should.)

But Arthur's strange idea of Chivalry changed all that. It introduced Fair Play and Common Courtesy and Decency and Justice and Good Behavious and Self Sufficiency, and a lot of other Fine Things that were sadly lacking in Avalon, even in Pendragon's day. (It did not introduce cricket, as many silly people claim. But it did introduce jousting, which was nearly as good. And if anybody tells you jousting is a violent, brutal sport, simply because brave knights will try to knock each other off their horses, you just point out it is a great deal better than what they got up to before jousting was invented. That hardly bears thinking about.)

The centre of all this Chivalry was something else Arthur invented. The Table Round, or Round Table as people insist on calling it. There really was a Round Table, made of oak, mainly, with teak inlay, big enough for a dozen or so knights to sit around quite comfortably, even though knights are very bulky in their armour. But the Round Table was more than that, much more. The Round Table was a way of life.

And it was a way of life that appealed greatly to a certain class of person. When Arthur first set up the Round Table (even before the Master Carpenter finished setting the inlays) knights from all over Avalon were clamouring to join it. There was even one knight who travelled all the way from France--no mean feat in bad weather--to find out if there was a place for him. His name was Monsieur Lancelot du Lac and as it turned out there was a place for him and an important place at that. Although they did make him change his name a little so the English could pronounce it: Sir Lancelot of the Lake.

With so many knights clamouring to join, Arthur could afford to pick the best for his Round Table. So he did. There was never so great a collection of knights since the Romans were chased out. Galahad. Percival. Lancelot. Bedevere. Guinevere. The list goes on and on. Except Guinevere wasn't exactly a knight: she was Arthur's Queen. But she often sat at the Round Table for the sake of the excellent advice she gave and the keen brain in her head.

There was another who often sat at the Round Table, although he was not a knight either. He was what they call a Druid, which is a sort of priest and a sort of miracle-monger all rolled into one. His name was Merlin, which might tell you he was Welsh. The common people called him Merlin the Magician. The knights, who were mostly afraid of him, called him 'Sir'. Arthur, who knew better, called him 'Silly old fool'. But that was really a term of affection from the King. After all, it was Merlin who set the sword in the stone and helped make Arthur what he is today. That's the truth of the matter, although another Wizard (by the name of Ansalom) took to claiming he was the one responsible.

Nobody like Ansalom much, although there were few enough prepared to call him a liar to his face, even among the brave knights. Ansalom was a nasty piece of work; and short tempred. The sort of Wizard who would blight your crops as soon as look at you. And since nobody wants their crops blighted, people tended to leave Ansalom alone.

The Table Round was set at King Arthur's court which was at a place called Camelot. It was a remarkable sight, especially in summer with the pennants flying from the spires and the sunshine glinting off the plished armour of the men-at-arms. In winter not so nice perhaps, because the pennants drooped a little in the rain and the armour was prone to rust. But then Arthur very seldom stayed at Camelot in winter. He usually went off to Cornwall.

Not very far from Camelot, if you had a good horse to carry you, was a farm. Nothing grand, nothing large, nothing spectacular, although it was owned by a freeman, not just worked by a serf. The farm was three and a half miles due north of a tiny little market village called Glastonbury (which was very near Camelot), but the road twisted and turned so much that by the time you reached the farm you actually travelled nearer five miles than three and a half. Not that very many people ever did go to the farm. Why should they? If they wanted farm produce, they bought it in Glastonbury Market. So the farm was very isolated. And this particular farm lacked a great many home comforts and had next to no luxuries at all. In sort, when you stopped to think about it, this farm was about as far from the splendours of Camelot as you could possibly imagine.

On this farm lived a young person, adopted child of the freeman farmer, who name was John, and John's wife, Miriam, or Mary as she was more often called. The young person's name was Pip.

Pip lived a quiet, uneventful life, serene, calm, peaceful, marked by the slow roll onwards of the seasons, interrupted only by the sleepy hum of the summer insects or the sound of early morning birdsong....


And with the introduction of Pip, here we switch back to the classic 2nd person POV:

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


Quote:
"I'm going to kill you, Brat! I'm going to murder you! I'm going to slaughter you! I'm going to beat your head in and tuck it underneath your arm!"

That's Mean Jake talking, Pip. A boy three years older than you and a lot bigger. His father's also called Jake--Jake the Maggot. Five brothers: three younger, two older. Four sisters, all older. A bad family, the whole lot of them. They make their living thieving from Glastonbury Market, which is where you are now. It's early morning and nearly deserted: your adopted father, Freeman John, always comes to market very early to unload his vegetables. Unfortunately, he's gone off to the smith to buy a new bit for the pony. So you're all alone on the cart, with your back against a sack of carrots, and now Mean Jake has turned up out of nowhere. He seems to have it in for you.

"Come on, Brat! Get down off that cart--I'm going to break you into tiny little pieces!"

We might discuss the reasons for Mean Jake's behaviour--the deprived childhood, the lack of a suitable role model--but that won't do you much good now, Pip. Look around you. There's not another soul in the market square. Not one. Too early. And Freeman John won't be back for half an hour.

It looks as if you're going to have to fight him. Either that or get killed and murdered and slaughtered and your head beaten in and tucked under your arm and the rest of you broken into little pieces. Not much of a choice there. Fight or run, and you can't run because Freeman John would never find you. So it's a fight. Got your dice?

Mean Jake has 20 LIFE POINTS, about average for a boy his age. Climb down slowly off the cart, Pip, but keep an eye on him--that one has a habit of rushing at you when you aren't looking. Wouldn't want that, because it gives him the first blow. Keep an eye on him and close in slowly. That way, you might get your punch in first.

Careful now. Throw one die once for yourself and one die once for Mean Jake. Whoever gets the highest score here has the first punch. Circle round him slowly. Keep your eye on him. Don't be in any hurry.

"Come on, Brat? I'm going to--"

He talks too much. That's good. Try to bop him on the nose. It's a bit harder to hit his nose--you need to roll an 8 instead of a 6. But if you do hit him there you score double damage. O.K. not much sense in stringing this out. Get the dice rolling and start the fight!

For all the bluster, this fight won't end up with a murder. It stops when the first fighter loses 10 or more LIFE POINTS.

If the first fighter to lose 10 or more LIFE POINTS is you, then turn to 1.
If the first player to lose 10 or more LIFE POINTS is Mean Jake, then turn to 2.


Yep, the book gives us a Tutorial Combat.

One note here: the rules card state that Pip needs to roll 6 or better to hit, but Merlin says that Pip needs to roll above 6. My interpretation is when Pip is unarmed, he can "hit" on rolling 6, but his fists has no modifiers, and so aren't enough to inflict any damage, so he has to roll more than 6 to do any good. Armed with a weapon (like his default +2 dagger), he can do damage when rolling 6 or better.

Which means, for this upcoming fight, despite the text, we actually need to roll 9, not 8, to damage Mean Jake....

Pip rolls 5, Mean Jake roll 3. Pip gets first strike.

COMBAT LOG:
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Quote:
Oh dear, he's half killed you. Bruise on the cheek. Sore nose. Skinned knuckles. Clothes all torn and muddy where you were rolling on the ground together. And that eye of yours is going to turn into a beautiful shiner tomorrow.

Don't worry about those lost LIFE POINTS, Pip. You'll have them back in a few hours. everybody does. (Unless they're dead, of course.) So by this time tomorrow you should be good as new. Apart from the bruises. You never grow back more LIFE POINTS than you had to start with, of course. But that's all right.

"Let that be a lesson to you, Brat! Never tangle with Mean Jake!"

Isn't that just like him? Crowing over an opponent when they're down. Still, it's over now: he's swaggering away to tell everybody how he murdered you. Rotten, isn't it? If only you'd landed on his conk more often. Never mind: it could be different next time. You'll get even. Maybe.

Anyway, right now you have other things to do. Like thinking up a good reason why you're in such a mess. Freeman John will be back soon and he doesn't approve of fighting. What on earth will you tell him? Dear, dear, life is full of problems.

Better turn to 3, Pip, before anything worse happens.


This is one of the few occasions when losing a fight doesn't kill us. Unfortunately, this also means we don't get any Exp for this fight....

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Quote:
So it was for Pip and Freeman John and Freeman John's Goodwife Mary. Life went on its same old uneventful way. The tilling and the sowing and the reaping. The fine days and the foul. And talking of fowl, Goodwife Mary bought some chickens with the proceeds of a particularly good sale of swedes Freeman John made in Glastonbury Market. So now they had eggs to eat on the farm. It may not sound much, but it meant a lot to them. When you're struggling to make ends meet, an egg is a treat. (And very good for you, by the way.)

Pip got the job of feeding the chickens. Silly birds they were. There were six chickens in all and one morning there were seven eggs. Goodwife Mary claimed it was a miracle, although it's much more likely that a chicken simply decided to work overtime. Perhaps because she liked Pip. You get chickens like that sometimes.

While feeding the chickens, Pip used to daydream about leaving the farm and going off to find fame and fortune; especially fortune. There were always stories about adventures which ended in hoards of gold once you killed the dragon, or whatever it was that the adventure was all about. A hoard of gold would come in very handy on the farm, Pip thought. It would stop Goodwife Mary worrying too much. And Freeman John, come to that. The only one who didn't seem to worry all the time was Pip. Probably too busy feeding chickens. (And fighting in the market square, eh? Shhh!)

Sometimes Pip daydreamed of joining the Round Table and riding off on a fine horse out of Camelot to find adventure and a hoard of gold: two hoards of gold even. But it was only a dream, of course. That sort of thing never happens in real life. Not that the Table Round couldn't have done with a little help about that time. Even from Pip. It isn't all ale and jousting being a knight. Or even a king, come to that. There are times when Affairs of State weigh heavily. Affairs of State can be anything from a bad harvest in the Realm to the threat of another invasion by those Romans. Or even an upsurge of dragons. Dragons are rare enough, but every so often (when it rains the first two weeks of August) they have a good breeding season and the following July the place seems to be infested with them. No jousting for the knights then: they're all too busy racing round like maniacs killing dragons. Or getting treatment for burns.

Still, dragons weren't the problem this time. August last year had been fine. No, the problem was Ansalom. The Wizard Ansalom. In a nutshell, Ansalom was getting far too big for his boots. Hardly a day went past that King Arthur didn't have at least one petition to do something about him.

"Please, sire, he's blighted my corn."

"Please, sire, he's taken my pig."

"Please, sure, he's dried up my moat."

True, all true. Ansalom was a world-class, prime-time, A1 nuisance. Worse than the Romans, worse than dragons. The problem was so many of the knights were afraid of him. Knights are fighters, great people in the face of physical adversity, but magic makes them nervous. And everybody knew the Wizard Ansalom had a lot of magic. So when King Arthur suggested to Percival or Galahad or whoever that they should do something about the Wizard Ansalom, he started getting funny answers.

"Of course, sire, except I have this wrong to right in Tintagel."

"Of course, sire, only I'm just this minute off on a quest for the Holy Grail."

And so on. Eventually, in desperation, Arthur dispatched the brave King Pellinore to do something about the problem, but Pellinore got lost in the forest outside Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle. (Poor sense of direction, Pellinore.) Merlin might have been able to do something about it, being a Wizard himself. But Merlin was missing at the moment, with a lot of ridiculous gossip about his having got himself a girlfriend. Nonsense at his age, of course, but he wasn't about, whatever the reason. So the Wizard Ansalom went his merry, wicked way unchecked.

While King Arthur was trying to cope with these troublesome Affairs of State, an odd thing happened that went completely unnoticed in Camelot, although it was extremely noticeable on Freeman John's farm, that being where it happened. Pip was talking to a chicken at the time, on the theory that a little encouragement might increase egg production. And right in the middle of this little chat, Goodwife Mary staggered into the coop, her face as pale as newly milled flour...

"Pip," says she, and stops. "Oh, Pip!" And stops again, clinging to a nearby perch for support.

"Mother--what's the matter?" asks Pip anxiously. It was always "Mother", even though Goodwife Mary was an adoptive mother. This being the Age of Chivalry, politeness was important. "Are you ill?"

"Ill?" She looks around her vaguely, first at the coop, then at the chickens, which have gathered round in a curious circle, bobbing their heads and sussing out the situation with very bright, very beady eyes. "Ill? No. No, I'm not ill. I don't think so. Oh, Pip, men have come."

"Men, Mother?" asks Pip, who knows how to frame a stupid question when the need arises.

"Nobles, Pip. Great men. Knights. Knights of the Round Table. With their horses and their pages. They're in the yard now, talking to your father." She reels a little, as if about to faint, but her secure grip on the perch does its job and she stays upright, eyes wide as saucers. "They're asking after you, Pip!"

After you, Pip? What's going on here?

"After me, Mother?"

"After you, Pip!"

"Pip! Pip! Where are you, Pip?" That's the voice of Freeman John, calling you.

So you take Goodwife Mary's arm and lead her out of the chicken coop, forgetting to close the door because of all this nonsense about knights, so that the chickens pile out after you to find out what on earth is going on. But it's true enough: at least it seems to be. The farmyard is full of large men in armour, with swords and halberds and snorting great warhorses. They aren't knight--Goodwife Mary was wrong about that--they are men-at-arms, an escort, so to speak, but definitely from Camelot, for they wear the King's colours and fly the King's pennant. At least twelve of them, half filling the farmyard, and very fierce looking they are. Freeman John is talking to one of them, a burly fellow bursting from his chain mail, with the insignia of a Sergeant-at-Arms.

"Pip," says Freeman John, who looks just as pale, just as shocked as Goodwife Mary, "these men want you to go with them."

"Boss wants a word with you," explains the Sergeant-at-Arms brusquely.

"With me?"

"If your name's Pip. It is Pip, isn't it?"

You nod, dumbly.

"Then that's settled, then," says the Sergeant-at-Arms. "Bring up the spare horse, George!" And to you, when one of his men has brought the spare horse: "You can ride an 'orse, can't you?"

You nod again, although this horse is twice the size of the farm pony. (And draped with a coat of arms you don't recognise: a very strange-looking coat-of-arms, almost sinister in fact. Andit's a black horse too, black as night.)

"Orl right then, up you go," says the Sergeant-at-Arms, pointing towards the stirrup. Then to John, as an aside, "We'll have the child back in a day at most, Freeman: don't you worry. Take good care, we will, the lads and me. No harm will come to anybody while we're about." Stout English yeoman type, the ruination of the country.

"Come on, Pip," he says. "Up you go!"

Do you go willingly? If so, turn to 4.
Do you protest, or run, or kick and scream and try to make a fight of it? If so, turn to 5.


First option! Do we want to go with the sergeant?
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"King Arthur by name, was on the throne of Avalon, ruling by the right of his great sword Excalibur, which he had drawn from the stone as a boy when strong me could not move it"

Grrrr...

Also, Pip is his name, it's not short for anything? Huh.

In that particular, you will note that the sergeant has got stripes on his armour...only they are pointing upwards. Clearly, this is an American sergeant pretending to be English and thus not to be trusted. But we'd best go with him so as to get the adventure started.
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Ikeren
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Go willingly.
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Darth Rabbitt
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
"King Arthur by name, was on the throne of Avalon, ruling by the right of his great sword Excalibur, which he had drawn from the stone as a boy when strong me could not move it"

Grrrr...

Still a better love story than Twilight adaptation of Arthurian legend than Transformers: The Last Knight. Not that it's a high hurdle to jump.

Quote:
Also, Pip is his name, it's not short for anything? Huh.

Shit-covered farmers aren't known for their creativity or literacy. Pip's probably all they could spell.

So from his past record Pip's about as good in a fight as Brave Sir Robin, but doesn't have his skill at running away bravely. On the plus side, no minstrels.

Go with the Sergeant-at-Arms. If we lose to the town bully then 12 adults in armor will fucking take us whether we want to or not, and we might as well save ourselves another beating.
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SGamerz
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
"King Arthur by name, was on the throne of Avalon, ruling by the right of his great sword Excalibur, which he had drawn from the stone as a boy when strong me could not move it"

Grrrr...


Incidentally, this little discrepancy about the origins of Excalibur is corrected in one of the later books in the series (Book 4, where Excalibur was stolen). Smile Maybe Brennan received complaints from the readers.

Oh, by the way, I noticed when reading the quoted text that I actually made a typo. It was supposed t be "when strong MEN could not move it", although oddly "strong me" kind of works too if you imagine one of the knights being the one telling the story. Big Grin

And of course, we go with the officer willingly. It's pretty obvious this is a fake option, since the quest hasn't even started yet. But I needed a break from posting that wall of texts. Tongue

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Quote:
Clinging precariously to the back of his huge black horse with its sinister insignia, you are led away from the farm of your adoptive parents, at first on the familiar road to Glastonbury Town, but shortly turning off on to less familiar tracks until, within an hour or so, you are thoroughly lost.

The men-at-arms seem sure enough of their direction, though; and even when they enter a dark forest they show no sign of nervousness. There is a fair amount of chatter amongst themselves (much of it involving the quality of food in Camelot canteen, which is odd since you would imagine the food at Camelot would be very fine: but perhaps it's only very fine for the real knights and nobles, not for men-at-arms).

The going is slow through the forest, so that the sun hangs low in the sky by the time you emerge abruptly into a vast clearing, in the centre of which is a log castle. No, not a log cabin--a log castle. Not very big as castles go, but big enough. Certainly a lot bigger than your home, or any of the houses you've seen in Glastonbury. With a log drawbridge spanning a deep, still moat. There are no men-at-arms on the battlements, only crows which raise a raucous alarm as your party approaches.

Since they are going to take you inside this strange castle anyway, Pip, whatever you do, better turn now to 6 to find out what happens.


Merlin's various bizzare homes/hideouts is actually one of the running gags of the series. He has a different one every book.

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Quote:
The hooves of the horses clatter loudly on the wooden drawbridge before you and your party pass beneath an open wooden portcullis into a stone-flagged yard.

This is the first time you have ever been in a castle (let alone a log castle) but if you expected hordes of servants, you are bitterly disappointed. The only horde that emerges from a small curtained doorway in the north wall of the courtyard is a cross-eyed, shambling hunchback in a leather jerkin and tattered leggings. He carries a wicked-looking dagger stuck carelessly in the leather belt around his waist. He is nearly bald and limps on account of a club foot (the left one). His bottom lip hangs. To tell the truth, he looks an awful mess.

This creature drags his club foot in your direction, halting just in time to stop your horse shying away in fright, and stares up at you for a moment with great ugly, rheumy, squinty eyes (both brown, you can now see).

"Ahr," he gurgles after a moment. "This be Pip all right. You lot can go now, about your lawful business."

"Right, Igor," says the Sergeant-at-Arms briskly, obviously scared witless of this creature, but not wanting to show it. He wheels about and the entire party rides out of the courtyard across the drawbridge. And behind them, although there is no one about, the portcullis slams down and the drawbridge raises up, leaving you alone with Igor.

"Down you come," says Igor. "Just leave the mare: she'll take care of herself."

And since there isn't much else you can do, you climb down from the horse.

"This way, young Pip, this way. Ahrrr," says Igor, shambling off the way he came, back in through that little doorway in the north wall. "Ahrr. The Master wants to see 'ee, ahrr." And so forth, rolling like a boat in a swell on account of his club foot.

And since there isn't much else you can do here either, you follow him down a gloomy, torchlit corridor (but why don't the torches set the wooden walls afire?) through an arch, along a second corridor and into a small, but well-appointed room with a table and some chairs, and leather-bound books on shelves around the walls, and a globe of the world near the table and a map of the heavens on the table, and dividers and compasses and parchment and a goose quill pen and inks and powders and potions and heaven knows what.

Not that you're paying much attention to the room, because the strangest thing is happening to Igor. His hump is dropping off. And his club foot is straightening. And he's growing taller and thinner and sprouting long white hair on his head and a long grey beard on his face.

And his clothes are changing: the leather jerkin and those ghastly leggings. And his eyes are unsquinting and changing from brown to blue. It is without a doubt the most amazing, most miraculous, most magical transformation you have ever witnessed. In place of the shambling Igor, there stands in this well-appointed room a tall, straight, blue-eyed, grey-bearded, old man in a long white robe and pointed hat (both embroidered, incidentally, with moons and stars and suns and planets and other curious symbols).

"That's better," says the old man: and his voice is dry, not at all like Igor's voice. "Shape-shifting's always a nuisance, but they expect a man in my position to have servants, even if he can't afford them. So it's necessary. Yes. Yes, indeed."

He stares at you with those piercing blue eyes. "Well, I see you got here. Made it safely. Spell worked. Knew it would. Enjoying yourself, are you, young Pip? Fighting the village boys, all that sort of thing? Good. Good. But there's more important work at hand just now." He waves you towards a chair with a short movement of one long, bony hand. "Sit down. Sit still. Don't fidget."

It was in this way that young Pip met one of the oddest individuals ever to walk the face of Avalon in the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Table Round. Although it took Pip quite a time to realise the identity of the old man who could shape-shift into the form of the hunchback Igor (and probably into quite a few other forms if the truth be known). In fact, poor Pip was so confused, the question had to be asked outright: "Who are you, sir?" And the ancient shape-shifter with the piercing blue eyes said, "Me? I'm Merlin, of course!"

Merlin. Now there you have it. That explains a lot. Merlin the Welshman. Merlin the Druid. Merlin the Magician, adviser to King Arthur and any of the knights who cared to listen. The old wise man of Camelot, who lived in a log castle in a clearing in the forest (and sometimes lived in a cave and sometimes in a tree trunk and sometimes heaven knew where because you could never find him when you wanted him so the King used to say).

You might wonder what a man in Merlin's position would want with a young farmhand like Pip. You might wonder what would persuade him to send a party of the King's own men-at-arms to fetch such an unimportant individual. But the fact of the matter was that Merlin was a bit daft. Dulally tap, as they say in Yorkshire; by which they mean someone lacking all his marbles, barmy, not all there, nutty, if not quite as a fruitcake, at least as a currant bun.

In this state, brought on by old age perhaps, or by chasing after young women--for the rumours about his girlfriend were all too true as history attests--Merlin had formed the strange delusion that Pip was not Pip at all, but a young person from the distant future, drawn by magic to inhabit Pip's sturdy body. All nonsense, of course, but when a man like Merlin gets an idea fixed in his mind, the devil himself couldn't shift it. And with this idea roosting in his white-thatched skull, everything that Merlin did next made a great deal of sense. For what he did next was teach Pip the rudiments of magic.

"Now pay attention," says Merlin. "The King has a problem. At least he will have, even if he doesn't know it yet. Guinevere. The Queen. Delightful woman, but she's going to be kidnapped. It hasn't happened yet, but it will."

He gestures to the parchment on the table, which is covered in calculations and blots. "No doubt about it," he says. "I worked it out by astrology. Saturn trine Jupiter and a very nasty aspect in her Rising Sign. I don't have to tell you what that means. It means she's going to be kidnapped. Soon. Seized. Abducted. Snatched right out of Camelot from under our very noses. The Queen herself. Dreadful."

He walks to a nearby bookshelf and takes down a leather-bound tome, which he opens at page 86. Inside, stuck down rather messily with glue is a charcoal drawing of a black-haired, black-bearded, black-eyed and extremely villanous-looking man in black robes, holding a wand. "And that," says Merlin, "is the rogue who'll do it. Ansalom. The one they call the Wizard Ansalom, although in my opinion he'd be hard put to tell a spell from a mangle. Still, he knows a trick or two: have to admit that."

"Well now," says Merlin, putting away the book again, "we have to do something about it. At least--" And here he turns his gimlet gaze on you, Pip. "--you have to do something about it: I'm too busy."

"Me, sir?" you ask, perhaps a little terrified.

"Yes, you. Of course you. Why do you think I brought you here all the way from your own time? Just to talk to chickens? Oh, no, young Pip: there's a job to be done and you're here to do it. But at least it isn't difficult. All you have to do is get into the Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle and rescue the Queen. Nothing to it for a healthy young person like yourself. As long as you avoid the traps. And the monsters. He breeds them, you know, for a hobby, then lets them wander all over his castle: the smell is dreadful, but you'll get used to it. Stupid things, monsters--most of them. They shouldn't give you any trouble. Worst that can happen is they'll eat you."

He stops, as if he has just remembered something, then goes on. "Oh yes, you might as well kill Ansalom while you're at it. Thorough-going nuisance, that man. Always blighting people's corn and stealing their pigs and drying up their moats, not to mention kidnapping Queens. So you just kill him. Otherwise, he'll kill you, of course--he's that sort."

He spreads his hands. "So you see, it isn't much of a job really. I'd do it myself if I wasn't so busy. So you just cut along now, Pip and... Wait. I forgot something."

So saying, Merlin dives beneath the table with surprising agility for such an old man and drags out a large oak chest, bound in iron bands. "You'll need this," he says, opening the chest and taking out a sword.

"This," says Merlin, "is the sword Excalibur Junior. A magical blade, something similar to the one I made for the King, except smaller. When you use this, you only need to roll a 4 or better to hit somebody. And when you do hit, you can add 5 to any damage caused. It talks too, although not very often. Calls itself 'E.J.'"

Merlin plunges back inside the chest. "And you'll need this," he says, bringing out a leather jerkin which, rather miraculously, fits you to perfection. "Looks like leather. Feels like leather. Weighs no more than leather. But it isn't leather: it's dragonhide. Don't see many jackets like this about, young Pip. As good as a suit of armour, this one. Anyone hits you when you're wearing this and it subtracts 4 points from any damage they cause you. 4 whole points. That can make the difference between life and death."

He closes the chest and puts it away, then walks quickly to a shelf and takes down a small casket, like a jewel box. From inside he takes three small blue glass bottles. "Now, potions." He hands you the bottles. "Keep those carefully. They're Potions of Healing. A secret blend of castor oil and mugwort. Tastes foul, but it restores LIFE POINTS. Swallow one of these and roll two dice (or one die twice) and the score shows you how many LIFE POINTS you've got back. I can only spare three bottles, but each contains six doses. Try to stretch them out."

He sniffs. "Well, now," says Merlin, "that's about it, isn't it?" He frowns. "No it's not--you are stupid, Pip. You didn't remind me to teach you magic. Won't get far in Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle without a bit of magic, will you? Let me see your hands."

Are you still there, Pip? Reeling a bit from all that, no doubt, but still there, still compos, as they say, mentis, which is an expression the Romans use to denote that you're still in full possession of your head. Doesn't he go on a bit, old Merlin. The Welsh are like that, of course: the only time they stop talking is when they're singing. Fortunately Merlin doesn't sing. Better show him your hands, Pip, otherwise he'll go on at you forever.

"Bit of dirt under your fingernails, I see," Merlin says. "Never mind, you can wash them later, before you meet the King. I did tell you you'd meet the King, didn't I? Well, you will. Just as soon as you rescue the Queen and bring her back from Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle. You'll get to meet the King then. If you're still alive, that is. Might even get yourself knighted, you never know. Now, where was I? Yes. Your hands."

He stares at your hands for a moment, then goes to the table and dips a goose quill in the ink. "Hold still, now," he says. "Don't fidget." And right there in the centre of each palm, he draws a circle with a star inside it. Draws it rather well too. Then, holding your hands tightly to steady them, he draws a second, very tiny circle on the tip of each of your two forefingers, right hand first, then the left.

"Now," he says, "I'm going to write something down and I want you to tell me if you can read it." With which he tears a piece of parchment off the end of the sheet filled with calculations and writes on it with the quill, then hands it to you.

On the piece of parchment he has written the words:

FIREFINGER 1


If you speak the words aloud in answer to his question, turn to 7.
If you only nod in answer, go to 8.


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How do we answer him?
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Nod, so as to not fire off a spell by mistake.

(Also, why is a log castle strange? Fortications made from timber aren't inherently odd, are they?)
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yeah, don't waste the spell.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

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Quote:
"You see," says Merlin, "this is an important bit of magic I've given you. A spell you might say. Every you say 'Firefinger 1' a bolt of lightning will jump from the tip of your right forefinger and hit anything you're pointing at in the same room. All you need do is point: it never misses. And it causes 10 points of damage to anything it hits. 10. Imagine that. More dangerous than a sword, that is. And if you say 'Firefinger 2' the same thing will happen with your left forefinger."

He regards you severely. "Now remember two things. The first is that the spell only works five times for each finger. So you have only ten Lightning Bolts in all, so don't waste them on any nonsense like target practice or showing off. That's the first thing. The second thing--" And here his face grows even more grave if that is possible, "--is that you must never, never, say 'Firefinger 1' or 'Firefinger 2' while your hands are in your pockets, otherwise you will do yourself a dreadful injury."

The lone, bony finger comes up and points directly at your nose so that you begin to hope Merlin himself has no Lightning Bolts concealed in his fingers. "But that is not all, young Pip. No indeed. Not by a long chalk. In the palms of your hands you now have concealed two huge, magical fireballs. Two only. One in each hand. These are your most powerful weapons. They do 75 points of damage each if they hit. 75! Yes. Yes, indeed. That's enough to put paid to old Ansalom, I'll be bound." He coughs, "The problem is, they don't always hit what you aim at. Have to throw dice, exactly the way you do when you're fighting. If you can't manage at least a 6 with two dice (or one die rolled twice) then you've missed. Missed completely. Wasted your Fireball; and you've only got two altogether. So make sure to roll well. You launch your Fireball by shouting--good and loud, mark you--'Fireball Away!' Then you roll your dice to see if it's hit anything. That's the way to do it. So save your Fireballs if you can, Pip, and use them on Ansalom, look you, Dai bach," says Merlin, lapsing into Welsh in his excitement.

At which very points in the conversation (or monologue, as it might be better described) there is a great commotion outside, like men pounding on log walls and ringing bells and shouting to get somebody's attention. Which is exactly what they are doing, since the drawbridge is up and there is no way in.

Merlin smiles to himself. "There," says he, "that will be the King's messengers with the news of the Queen's kidnapping. Right on time, according to the ancient pyramidic scrolls. But we're ready for them, eh Pip? At least you are. I'll just go and tell them you'll sort it all out."

And off he goes, shape-shifting into Igor in the corridor, to tell the King's messengers that Pip, brave Pip, is all prepared to rescue Queen Guinevere from the Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle.


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THE DARK CASTLE OF THE WIZARD ANSALOM:
Quote:
What a scandal! What a fuss! What a fluttering in the dovecotes, to use a picturesque expression. It was panic stations throughout Camelot, throughout the whole of Avalon for that matter. The Queen kidnapped! Impossible! Such a thing had never happened before! But it had happened now.

And the way it happened was extremely creepy. No warning. No declaration of war. No attack on the castle. No peasant or noble revolt. In fact, it had been a fairly ordinary day, all things considered. There was a meeting of the Table Round in the morning, with nothing terribly exciting on the agenda. All the discussions were perfectly routine. Lancelot tabled a list of wrongs to be righted and the knights shared them out equitably. Bedevere complained about the drains (he had a thing about drains). Galahad gave a brief report on the dragon situation, which was actually well under control. Percival suggested somebody should go looking for King Pellinore, who was still lost in the forest, and everyone agreed to refer the matter to a sub-committee for further study. All absolutely routine, with not a hint of trouble.

After that, King Arthur held his usual Public Audience, during which he judged disputes and listened to complaints. ("Please, sire, the Wizard Ansalom stole my pig.") But even here, Ansalom was proving no more of a nuisance than usual.

Queen Guinevere, meanwhile, had not attended either the Table Round or the Public Audience, since a look at both agendas had convinced her the problems were so simple even men could handle them without help. So she went off to her study to write some important letters to a Scottish cousin about the possibility of increasing his country's haggis exports.

She was attended in the study by two ladies-in-waiting and three maids of honour, that being the usual custom at Camelot. She was also attended by a contingent of men-at-arms, an honour guard, who waited stiffly outside the door, their hands on their swords, looking fierce, that being the custom too. There was only one door into the study and consequently only one door out. It was a small room, with very few--if any--places to hide.

Nobody expected any more trouble than the occasional inkblot (and not even that, really, since the Queen was noted for her penwomanship), but all of a sudden the men-at-arms outside heard the ladies-in-waiting and the maids of honour inside begin to scream their heads off. Naturally the men drew their swords and rushed in, making a great fuss as men do in an emergency, to find the Queen had vanished.

They couldn't get a lot of sense out of the ladies or the maids, who all claimed Guinevere had simply disappeared while she sat behind her desk. One minute she was there, the next minute gone, with not even a puff of smoke to mark her departure. The Sergeant-at-Arms had a shrewd suspicion they hadn't been paying attention and called for a thorough search of the room, paying particular attention to secret panels and the like. But there proved to be no secret panels, and no Queen either. Reluctantly everyone reported back to Arthur, who was just finishing up his Public Audience when the news arrived.

Arthur, was, of course, terribly upset and lost his temper for a while, shouting all sorts of threats to his guards. But he calmed down very quickly and ordered a thorough search of the entire castle, particularly the grounds (fearing Guinevere might have fallen out of a window). When this produced no indication of the missing Queen, he began to suspect sorcery afoot; and having suspected sorcery, he naturally thought of that pig-stealing, moat-drying, crop-blighting nuisance, the Wizard Ansalom.

"Lancelot," said he to his bravest knight, "the time has come to do something about the Wizard Ansalom. Permanently."

And Lancelot, who was really a bit too fond of the Queen for his own good, promptly agreed. "I will ride, sire, this instant to the Dark Castle of the Wizard Ansalom and there I shall single-handedly fight my way through his guards and his monsters and put the villain to death with my trusty sword!"

"Don't talk rubbish," Arthur said, in no mood for that sort of chivalrous nonsense. "You wouldn't get beyond the courtyard. What's needed here is somebody devious, somebody sneaky, somebody with the sort of convoluted animal cunning which will get him past Ansalom's tricks and traps."

"Merlin!" Lancelot breathed.

"Exactly," Arthur said; and forthwith dispatched messengers to Merlin's famous log castle with the news of the Queen's disappearance.

The messengers returned, but not with Merlin. They returned with a very nervous and confused young person, equipped with a sword that looked suspiciously like a sawn-off version of Excalibur and mumbling some nonsense about Lightning Bolts and Fireballs.

It didn't sound much of an answer to the greatest crisi the realm had ever faced, but Arthur knew how stubborn Merlin could be, and for all the Druid was an old fool, Arthur still had a sneaking regard for his judgement. So he ordered the Quartermaster General to pack some sandwiches and fruit in a lunchbox and check out a standard issue backpack with ropes and climbing spikes and other odds and ends of use to commandos, then called a thirty-six strong guard to escort this young person to the forest on the outskirts of Wizard Ansalom's demesne.

The guard carried out their duties as ordered, escorting the young person into the forest and leaving rather promptly on account of the magical atmosphere that surrounded anything to do with Ansalom. It was only when they returned that everyone realised they had forgotten to ask the young person's name. The oversight caused much general annoyance. As Percival remarked, they would have nothing to put on the tombstone.


And with that, finally, the quest begins proper:

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THE ADVENTURE:
Quote:
Well, here you are, Pip, in the dark, dank forest that lies on the approach to the Dark Castle of the Wizard Ansalom. What an adventure, eh? What a jolly jape! What a light-hearted frolic! Well, perhaps not. Let's see what you've got inside your backpack: that might cheer you up.

Now let's see...

A coil of stout rope, fifteen metres long, which is useful. A dozen climbing spikes: could come in handy. Six good torches, their ends well-dipped in pitch; a lantern and three--no, four--flasks of oil; and a tinderbox to help you light them; a lunchbox with bully-beef sandwiches and two apples; some sheets of parchment, quill and ink for mapping; and, look, a dagger for you to hide in your boot; some salve for wounds; some garlic to give your sandwiches a bit of bite; a mirror made from polished metal; a hammer, some nails and a saw. There's also a lodestone in a little pocket in the side. You can use that as a compass if you're stuck: just mark one end and hang it from a piece of twine (there's some twine in there if you look). It will spin a bit but end up pointing north/south. Useful enough, that lot.

It's a nasty forest. Very gloomy; and the paths are all overgrown. Look at the way those trees are all twisted and gnarled, branches like old wizened hands reaching out at you. Notice you don't hear any birds singing. Not one. Never mind: you've a choice of paths. Both look equally unpleasant. And both look as though they might be going to the Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle. Isn't that annoying? Okay, Pip, which is it to be: the right-hand path or the left hand path?

If you pick the right-hand path, turn to 9.
If you pick the left-hand path, turn to 20.


Aaaand we start with.....a classic left-or-right option.

QUEST JOURNAL:
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Huh, I will stop thinking some of the "Challenege of the Magi" sections require a lot of typing.

(In later books, I thought it was one Firefinger per finger, rather than five per forefinger, did Merlin change things, or was I wrong?)

Go left, in that the book seems to be putting sections in order, and 20 is a bit of a step away.
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Ikeren
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The humour is bizarre.

Go left.
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SGamerz
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
(In later books, I thought it was one Firefinger per finger, rather than five per forefinger, did Merlin change things, or was I wrong?)


The later books don't specify which fingers the lightning bolts shoot from (at least, from my checking Book 2 and 3 now, they don't), just that you have 10 total, so I guess if you never read Book 1 most people would naturally assume that it's 1 per finger.

Well, realistically (not that realism has much to do with this series, though), using forefingers for magic attack is certainly more practical than having to point your ring finger at your enemies in a fight, which can be awkward. Not to mention the danger of children picking up the middle-finger-salute habit from reading this.

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Quote:
The path gets narrower and more and more overgrown. Eventually you find you are actually having - to push your way through the undergrowth. Then, suddenly and without warning, you are in a clearing; and in the middle of the clearing is the ruin of an old stone building, a ruined abbey, perhaps, with ivy clinging to the walls.

Since there doesn't seem to be any immediate way out of the clearing, it may be no bad idea to explore the ruin. Even if it is haunted, which, of course, it isn't. Nobody believes in ghosts nowadays. Except it isn't nowadays, is it? It's back in the days of King Arthur. Oh, dear.

As you are a brave soul, you explore anyway, despite the ghosts. As you enter the ruin, you feel a sudden chill. It seems darker even than the gloomy forest. There are small scuffling sounds in the crumbling walls.

'Stop. Halt. Cease. Not one step further, what?'

A man's voice. And out of the gloom steps (or rather clanks) a massive figure in jet-black armour.

'Halt! I say,' he says, even though you have certainly halted. 'Who are you? What are you doing here? Speak up and answer before I slit your gizzard!'

Could this be the notorious Black Knight your adopted father, Freeman John, used to speak about in whispers by the fireside of an evening? If it is, he is known as the most evil, fearsome opponent in the realm (next to the Wizard Ansalom, of course).

If you feel like fighting him, turn to 17.
If you don't (and who could blame you), speak to him politely and turn to 25.


Do we feel like fighting?


Last edited by SGamerz on Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, that's either the scariest knight ever, who would kill us easily, or some random we don't know and have no reason to fight as yet?

Yeah, talk to him.
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Ikeren
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I also vote talk. It's at least giving us the option.
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Darth Rabbitt
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Agreed.
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SGamerz
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
'What's that?' asks the Black Knight. Tip, you say? Well, Pip,' it's no place for a young person to be wandering. Get lost very easily. Don't tell me - I've been lost for weeks.'

At which he removes his helmet to reveal a florid, but otherwise friendly face. 'King Pellinore at your service,' he says. 'Well, not exactly at your service, since I've work to do. But nice to have met you just the same.'

Then he takes his leave of you, mounting a sag-backed old horse tethered at the back of the ruins and riding off to disappear into the depths of the forest, silly old fool.

If you search carefully, you will find a path out of the clearing which eventually takes you to 22.


Alas, there's no way to ask him to join you, even though you're both on the exact same quest.

Quote:
On this path you will eventually notice a junction on your right which joins up with the path described in 10. If you have already been that way, you will presumably ignore it. If not, you are free to take that route if you please.

Assuming you continue on the main path, you will travel for nearly half a mile before reaching a leafy screen. Break through that and, can you believe it, you are in sight of...

THE WIZARD ANSALOM'S DARK CASTLE!


Turn quickly to 19.


Weirdly placed option.....we haven't been to 10, so we CAN visit there, but within the same section it tells us if we proceed we find the location that we're looking for......

So do we want to check out that diversion, so go straight to the castle?
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I suggest diverting to 10.
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Ikeren
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm also pro-diversion.

I'm also wondering if this has changing options; like had we attacked him, would he have been the evil black knight, or would we have killed are friend?
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Darth Rabbitt
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Check out diversion, hope it's more useful than the world's most inept king.
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SGamerz
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ikeren wrote:
I'm also wondering if this has changing options; like had we attacked him, would he have been the evil black knight, or would we have killed are friend?


Nah.
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Quote:
This path is fairly open, fairly easy going for several hundred metres. Eventually it begins to swing left until up ahead you can see it joins another path. Unfortunately, between you and the intersection, there is a wild Boar. The bad-tempered beast has seen you and it's charging. No choice here, Pip. You fight it or get killed.

The Boar has 25 LIFE POINTS. It does +4 damage if it gets its tusks in you. Roll dice to see which of you gets in the first blow.

If you kill the Boar, go on to the intersection. This joins your path leading to the path leading to 22.

If the Boar kills you, go to 14.

If the Boar knocks you out, you will wake up 20 minutes later with the Boar gone.


The winning section leads to 22....which is basically where we would have gone if we didn't choose the diversion, so this is just a fight with no loot. However, in Grailquest even random loot-less fights aren't complete waste of time, because we always get Exp point for winning a fight. And this is one of the very few fights where we can lose the fight without being killed (getting knocked out...majority of the time, the book doesn't differentiate between the two).

Oh, and section 14 is the standard "death section" not only for this book, but for EVERY SINGLE Grailquest book. Not sure what Brennan has against that number. Let's hope we never have to go there (not likely, though).

On to the fight: The Boar's natural +4 bonus means that it completely negates the protection from our Dragonskin Armour. Fortunately, we still have EJ, so this should be easier than the last fight....

Pip rolls 4, Boar rolls 6, Boar gets first hit!

COMBAT LOG:
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Pip can now finish off his unconscious opponent at leisure (and I guess he does, since the book states that he moves on "if he kills the Boar"). Also, we win our first Exp point!

Quote:
This is it, Pip. This is where the trouble really starts. This is the Wizard Ansalom's Dark Castle. Just look at it, looming up there out of the mists like some huge, sodden tombstone. Seven towers (count them) and not one under twenty metres in height. Great dank stone walls, dripping slime. And a still, dark moat that's probably full of the most loathsome creatures you could imagine. Did you ever see such an evil-looking place? Fair sets your teeth on edge to think of the lovely Queen Guinevere languishing in some deep dungeon inside.

The drawbridge is down, Pip, and the portcullis raised. Not a guard in sight. They say the Wizard Ansalom doesn't need them: nobody in their right mind would risk entering his Castle without an invitation. So he leaves the drawbridge down and the portcullis open. "Come into my parlour," said the spider...

There are monsters in there, Pip. And traps and tricks and all manner of evil magics, so they say. But the Queen is in there too, so there's nothing else for it but to put on a brave face, keep old EJ handy, and put the best foot forward.

Just a couple of points before you start, Pip. The Castle lies directly in front of you, to the north. From now on, all your directions will be given as north, south, east, or west. (Which is handy for drawing a map: and you'll certainly need a map, especially if you're killed and have to go back again.)

Directly ahead of you (i.e. north) is a hundred metres wide area of barren, stony scrubland, then the moat, drawbridge and ghastly Castle. Off you go, Pip, onwards to 23. And good luck.


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Quote:
Having crossed the drawbridge and entered the enclosed archway tunnel which leads to the open portcullis, you have a choice of making a dash for the portcullis before it closes, or creeping along carefully and slowly, examining everything as you go.

If you make a dash for it, turn to 30.
If you creep along slowly and carefully, turn to 13.


Are we careful?

QUEST JOURNAL:
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Careful now.

(So it's never explained why it's always 14?)
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
(So it's never explained why it's always 14?)

I have a vague recollection that it's because 13 would be 'too cliché.'
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