This is one of my favourites. The cover is great, the illustrations really give you a feel for the place, and although Luke Sharp's style is more than a bit bizarre, I love the craziness of it all and the inventiveness it shows. The land, languages and peoples of Kazan are really fascinating, in part because LS never lets you stop long enough to examine them properly. Beshbalik is one of my favourite characters - I love the way he has a fall out with Chingiz and just rampages around screwing things up for everyone.
I also really like the freedom of play that LS likes to give - you can pretty much take any path you like through the adventure, making replayability excellent. Mapping the adventure is a complete nightmare, and for years I struggled trying to draw flowcharts of this and his other adventures, only for Simon to come along with his SVGs and fix the problem over night!
Post by thealmightymudworm on Nov 4, 2013 18:56:28 GMT
I really enjoy this adventure and the poison score is great - the most bizarre looking adventure sheet I've ever seen! The artwork is great too. But, as I posted elsewhere I always seem to end up going for the same bloody medallion! I must play it again soon and try to take paths that seem unfamiliar to me... The Edwards cover is fantastic too!
Like Spectral Stalkers and JGs HotW, I think the mechanics of gameplay have been handled rather timidly. It would be better for these books if the poison/change/trail scores were doubled when instructed to increase and a +1 to be added whenever you make a roll against them.
Like Spectral Stalkers and JGs HotW, i think the mechanics of gameplay have been handled rather timidly. It would be better for these books if the poison/change/trail scores were doubled when intructed to increase and a +1 to be added whenever you make a roll against them.
That would make the book move from a 45% chance of death by poison to a 90% chance! When your reading target audience is 11-14 that probably isn't the greatest move as it would turn the readership off too much. I must admit though, that I agree in essence with your point in that every time I've played it I've never even been close to dying from the poison! Perhaps not a doubling then, but instead more more opportunities to have to mark off the poison score?
(328) Despite your best efforts, you find yourself decaying in front of a computer screen. Your adventure ends here.
Well that's another new one for me. I must admit that after Star Strider and especially Chasms of Malice, I was a bit nervous going into a new Luke Sharp entry. But not nervous enough to skip it, fortunately, as this one is much better in term of story and playability.
First, yeah, the story. It's more involving, more interesting, diverse and keeps you going for more. While I've only played it once, the branching paths does look like it would make for quite a few different adventures in the same book, which is always nice. The poison system also keeps you on the edge most of the time. My one-time runthrough was particularly thrilling: as I was reaching for the end, nearing closer to it sections after sections, I kept being hit by poison, until I reached a dreaded 23 pieces out of 24. I held my breath as I awaited that final poison piece to hit me, but instead I won! So that was a great finale.
As for the playability, while there are still annoying dice rolls and sudden death all over the place, a Luke Sharp trademark apparently, those sections are far lighter and (well almost) fairer overall. It's nowhere near as maddening as Chasms. So it's great to see that Mr. Sharp kinda regained his sanity, after his last spasms of craziness. Otherwise my memory of him would have been tainted forever.
Inside illos by a "debutant" Martin McKenna are still pretty cool and easy on the eyes. There's some awkwardness to them, from time to time, but it doesn't really detract from the overall experience. But now, on to the meat of the subject: the main cover by Les Edwards! What's up with that? Now while I would agree to a masterful technique and a cool subject, how come we ended up with some sort of reject Dennis Hopper from Waterworld waterskiing on tigers? He's even going so fast he needs a falcon to help him slow down... now this is some crazy shit! I'm not sure if I like it or not, but you have to be in awe of the madness displayed, quite frankly... Plus look at those elbow and knee spikes! They look far more threatening to the one wearing them than for anyone else! He's just about to have one hell of an accident. Slow down Dennis! Take her easy! And leave that dope behind!
Well that's all folks. I enjoyed this book and was frankly surprised to do so. But it's much better than the contrary now, isn't it?
But now, on to the meat of the subject: the main cover by Les Edwards! What's up with that?
I love how utterly terrified the guy on the front looks - and to be honest who could blame him? In Les' defence, this guy actually does appear in the book. I think Daggers of Darkness is one of the most fun books in the series. There's so much to do in it and the different tests, mazes and powers are all highly entertaining. True, it's pretty incoherent and most of the monsters are not described (what exactly is a Mamalik anyway?) and there's a few design flaws (you can be asked for abilities you can't possibly have), but it's hard to really care because overall the book is so likeable. I think more could have been made of rival members of the Select, but that's my only real criticism. Anyone else find it strange that a guy called Chingiz has a daughter called Meggan?
Anyone else find it strange that a guy called Chingiz has a daughter called Meggan?
Slightly odd, yes, but it this is a nice example of 'Luke Sharp' playing around with names, as I discuss in issue 3 of the Fantazine. 'Meghan' (not 'Meggan') is a variant of the name 'Megan', which is a form of the name 'Margaret', which means 'pearl' in Ancient Greek. The name of the Sultana of Egypt at the beginning of the Mamluk period was Shajar-al-Durr, which means 'string of pearls'. So Meghan-na-Durr contains the Greek word for pearls and the Arabic word for pearls. The Mamluks (obviously the inspiration for the name 'Mamlik') were a Turkic ethnic group, and the Turks were originally from the central Asian steppes, being culturally close to the Mongolians of Chinggiz fame.
From an in-world perspective, I think of the Kazanids as nomadic Mongolian/Turkic-types who have settled in southwest Khul, absorbing various influences as they did, including Arabic-type elements (which are common in southern Khul). Kind of like the Turks, who adopted many names and words from Arabic as they settled in the near east.
I love how utterly terrified the guy on the front looks - and to be honest who could blame him? In Les' defence, this guy actually does appear in the book. I think Daggers of Darkness is one of the most fun books in the series. There's so much to do in it and the different tests, mazes and powers are all highly entertaining. True, it's pretty incoherent and most of the monsters are not described (what exactly is a Mamalik anyway?) and there's a few design flaws (you can be asked for abilities you can't possibly have), but it's hard to really care because overall the book is so likeable. I think more could have been made of rival members of the Select, but that's my only real criticism.
I love the cover, and this guy (Beshbalik) is cool, perhaps one of the best characters in FF.
Mamliks look like Man-Orcs (as has been discussed over the years on Titan Rebuilding), and there is at least one example of a Man-Orc assassin elsewhere in FF. The Mamluks were originally a Turkic warrior-slave cast in Eqypt and the Islamic world in the medieval and early modern period.
And I too love DoD - there's just so much stuff in there, even if it does have a large element of Luke Sharp randomness (which I don't mind so much) throughout.
Well, what do you know? Thanks Paltogue for both the history and FF lesson! I certainly didn't expect that clicking on this topic! (no sarcasm here)
As for Beshbalik, Kieran, I know he's in the book, I met the guy. I couldn't quite believe he was in the book, for a moment. To tell the truth, at first glance, I always thought the fangtigers were running in the snow, looking at the backdrop and everything. I thought it funny that they looked like they were in water... Now you understand why I did a double-take after actually reading about the guy's arrival.
Slightly odd, yes, but it this is a nice example of 'Luke Sharp' playing around with names, as I discuss in issue 3 of the Fantazine. 'Meghan' (not 'Meggan') is a variant of the name 'Megan', which is a form of the name 'Margaret', which means 'pearl' in Ancient Greek. The name of the Sultana of Egypt at the beginning of the Mamluk period was Shajar-al-Durr, which means 'string of pearls'. So Meghan-na-Durr contains the Greek word for pearls and the Arabic word for pearls. The Mamluks (obviously the inspiration for the name 'Mamlik') were a Turkic ethnic group, and the Turks were originally from the central Asian steppes, being culturally close to the Mongolians of Chinggiz fame
Very interesting. Clearly there is more method to Sharp's madness than I gave him credit for!
Post by thealmightymudworm on Nov 4, 2013 19:18:43 GMT
I just played this book for first time since I was a kid. I was trying really hard not to cheat too much, and succeeded on my 5th attempt. As people have commented there is a lot of randomness in this book. It seems the author tried to throw in as many ideas as he could possibly think of. But by and large a very enjoyable to play! A few of the sudden deaths are a bit harsh, but otherwise the difficulty is ok. One other slight flaw is the failure to use rules for facing multiple-opponents.
I really liked though the layout with the search for talismans, then progression to the city, then finally the castle. The final encounter in the throne room was too easy. However paragraph 400 is probably the best 'final paragraph' I have seen. The pay-off the reader gets seeing the fruits of their victory makes it all worth it.
The Martin Mckenna illustrations are just brilliant, I kept replaying it just to try and reach the encounters that accompany them. My favourites are the view of the city p155, and the dwarf holding onto his hat in the 'flood scene' p230.
Regarding the cover illustration. There was an 80s fantasy film called Beastmaster, I think the guy on the cover may be a riff on that.
Oh and this must he the hardest book ever to map. This is not in any way a criticism, simply an observation. As well as wandering about the main map you keep going in and out of mini-dungeons or getting lost in the main city, as well as being carried around by Gryphhawks or Birdmen.
I actually enjoy the randomness of the book. Very few of the choices you make actually have the logical outcome you were expecting but it doesn't matter because you get into some strange, fascinating and sometimes dangerous scenario. I do agree that there are some unfair instant deaths (such as dying because you paid someone 2 gold coins to ride with them on a horse) but it is fun nonetheless. You get to see huge areas of countryside and different civilisations in one book. It's a bit like the Fighting Fantasy version of Flash Gordon - covers lots of different places, a bit incoherent but lots of fun nonetheless.
Also, points to Luke Sharp for making sure that a medallion is not mandatory (although it makes life easier) - it means you might win the book without cheating.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Nov 4, 2013 19:20:19 GMT
All roads lead to Bogomil. At least this is what it appears after four playthroughs of Daggers of Darkness. I'm in two minds about this one as I love the complexity of the culture and encounters, but find the navigation FRUSTRATING.
Let's deal with the geography of the adventure first. I appreciate the effort that Luke Sharp has gone into to make the various routes to Sharrabbas so convoluted; it's certainly a lot more interesting than the neatly mapped Livingstonian efforts. However, the player's sense of direction is so crippled by his approach that traversing Kazan quickly moves from being frustrating to being annoying. Like all Sharp books, this one is extremely difficult to map (some have said impossible, beyond a flow chart approach). The map that I've drawn up (which currently shows about two thirds of the total land) is certainly a tangle, but is just about navigable. The reason that mapping is so difficult is that so many changes in direction aren't flagged up with compass or directional references in the text - when they do crop up they only serve to force your map features to collide. The 'non-directional' paths come about because of choices taken which do not necessarily involve moving onwards at all: hiding, standing your ground, striking up conversations, etc. Whilst this approach certainly makes the narrative more interesting it also made me feel as if I never knew what I was heading towards, just diving headlong wherever the wind blows. A certain amount of act-of-God occurrences are a good thing in gamebooks in small doses, but I like to feel that I am in control of my destinations at for half of the time. Other disorienting shifts in position on the map take place when you're whisked up into the air by various avian pests and then deposited in a mystery location with no idea which direction your kidnap has taken you in. This has the same basic effect that Sharp used in Chasms of Malice when you're knocked unconscious and moved elsewhere whilst you're out cold. Again, this is a novel narrative approach in FF, but is more frustrating than it is refreshing.
The navigation problem is probably why Masterchief says that he always seems to be sent for the same Medallion each time. I'm betting that this is the one from Bogomil because I encountered the same problem; this was the Medallion that I picked up in three out of the four of my recent playthroughs. If my messy map serves me correctly, there are four basic routes to Bogomil, but only one or two for the other settlements.
Although the dizzying lack of direction is a major flaw, most of the other aspects of the book are thankfully much stronger. I was disappointed back in 1988 that there was only opportunity to find one (or - rarely - two) of the Medallions in each playthrough, but now I realise that this limitation means that there can be so much more to explore on subsequent attempts. (Well, so long as the Bogomil Hamsterwheel doesn't keep looping round on you that is). Aside from the unusual way of acquiring the Hulugu Medallion, I'm only familiar with the trials for finding three of them: Uruz, Korkut and - of course - Bogomil. (Well, I probably knew how to find all of them back in the day, but I never made decent maps or notes when playing as a kid). They're all great fun to hunt for, with Sharp making an effort to move beyond just regurgitating the Deathtrap Dungeon approach. My most recent find was at Korkut, which has a delightful task involving stepping on raised pillars (some of them with venomous snakes) to real your goal. It reminded me of the tiger hunt from Masks of Mayhem, but nowhere near as hard. It was difficult to understand how your character was playing the game within the context of the story as he could presumably see where the snakes were. The likely intention is that the "magic die" that is mentioned in the following task is used, but this should've been mentioned before really. A minor quibble, yes, but it broke the immersion a bit for me.
The culture presented here is more diverse and believable than in most of the previous FF books. I liked the definite distinctions between the different symbolism and approaches that are favoured in each town. As Kieran pointed out, it would've been even better if there had been more time spent exploring the inter-town relationships. Making your character have to choose between two of the settlements that could've been in conflict would've been very exciting.
Another dimension that helps to make Kazan more interesting is giving us some characters who are neutral in attitude. I had forgotten all about Beshbalik and his gang of Marauders until my recent playthroughs, but Paltogue is right about having one of Chingiz's former allies turn into an outlaw is a delicious addition to the chaos. He doesn't have much to say for himself though, so I never really discovered what the nature of Beshbalik's gripe against Chingiz is. (I've just taken a peek at Beshbalik's wiki page and unfortunately the details of this conflict aren't made clear at any point. A pity, as this could've helped your character to use this knowledge to gain more assistance against your enemies).
Martin McKenna drew the illustrations at the tender age of sixteen and has indicated that he is less than satisfied with the finished results. Whilst I'd agree that it's not his best work, I think that he's being rather hard on himself as the illustrations are mostly very atmospheric. I particularly like the diving Elkiem (270), the arresting V-esque assassin (215) and the Tudor-style town views (155 and 98). Best of all though is the ghoulish "gnarled oak" (114) - it may not be the standard of the fantasy tree wonders that Ian Miller can draw, but it's creatively realised.
You can also get the one of the others (Kazalik?). I'm fairly sure Yigenik is impossible to get though
Sorry Kieran, I've just looked back at the comment of yours that I - supposedly - referenced and I've muddled the townships with the Select. Sloppy of me; I should've taken more care there. I agree that having the rivalries between the Select members would've been a brilliant extra dimension to the book though.
I'll have a look for the Kazilik Medallion one of these days. Yigenik impossible though? That's a bit disappointing.
This didn't grab me any more than Stealer had, and I believe that I bought both at the same time when I finally decided to give them a go. As with SoS, I read it rather than played it, though I did keep count of the Poison units as I went along. When I hit 24, I pretended that I hadn't really grabbed the fishing rod and wound up fighting the Creature from the Black Lagoon (flicking through to find the illustration, I realise that the resemblance is nowhere near as close as I'd remembered it being), reduced my Poison score by 1, and continued until I reached the end. I don't think I tried it again until I got my replacement copy when getting back into FF in the noughties. More fool me, as the variety of different non-inherently-doomed routes through it gives it a more enjoyable form of replayability than the 'one extremely difficult true path' model found in so many FF books.
So, saved from certain death by Mr Sharp's Tesco value Yaztromo, I read about stuff already known to me so as to give the reader a crude info-dump, and then learn that I'm probably doomed anyway. What fun! Proceeding to the Kazan border, I find evidence that Martin McKenna's grasp of anatomy isn't what it could be (unless the Kazanids just have much lower chests than most people), and learn that my dying rival's killers were Deverite Mamliks. Taking a different path, I encounter some arrogant horsemen and, checking the medallion names on the Adventure Sheet, realise that they're from one of the Clans, so I let them know who I am. I'm offered a choice of horses, and pick the one that's like the name of a pub just down the road from where I live. A good choice, as it turns out.
During the night, we are attacked by Orcs. This poses a dilemma: fighting raises my Poison, but if I run, I'm likely to miss my shot at the medallion. Risk fighting. And I still wind up separated from the Yigeniks, but might yet get to rediscover them. My efforts, alas, merely lead to my being unhorsed and getting into a fight against an overconfident Dark Warrior - even without the abilty of Darkfight, I still outclass him, and it's only unreasonable behaviour by the dice that makes the fight take as long as it does.
An evil 'Rest Ye Here' impersonator almost lures me to my death, and further misbehaviour by the dice makes a fight against a puny Snow Leech almost Galon-tastically hard. They're not much kinder when I rescue a refugee from Chasms of Malice from a would-be backstabbing Goblin. To show his gratitude, he teaches me the ability that would have come in handy three fights ago, and we proceed to a pub with a name reminiscent of the horse I didn't choose. My new friend must have a decent Luck score, as he doesn't bother to recommend a local beer, but I still I choose his favourite brew rather than the one he can't stand.
Next thing, the inn is raided, and I wind up mistaken for potential slave-fodder by members of another Clan. Again I play the 'I'm one of the Select' card, but this time the person I tell must be working for the bad guy, as he tries to arrange for me to be killed while 'trying to escape'. He fails, and I get to take the Test, which is a rather odd game. I make it through the first stage at significant Stamina cost, and proceed to the live-action Snakes and Ladders arena. The game has some additional twists, including animated statues, poison darts, a man-sized freezer compartment, a rickety bridge and flower-loving Fiends. Regrettably, the second time I wind up in the freezer room, I'm too slow to escape. Mr Sharp is rather too fond of situations where arbitrary rolls make all the difference between life and death, and while this book is nowhere near as unplayable as Chasms, it still has enough of such set-ups to mar it.
Read here that most people like this book. For me, at this stage, it is a very poor book, a childish story designed for chidren. I suppose the people who like this book will be the same people who like Seas of Blood.