Short of assuming that Jonathan Green made a mistake when revising the book for the Wizard edition, and switching the surrender option in section 173 to 269, you will need some strategically timed unlucky rolls to be able to get the relevant items.
Alright! Another new book for me, and my first Jon Green book; something I’ve been anticipating for quite a while now. It’s important for me because, Mr. Green, being the sole current and active writer of FF up until now (and I really mean active folks, as being known to post on this forum from time to time), I was very eager to plunge headlong into his brand of adventure and discover what he had in store for me, because (and I think many fellow fans out there will understand my apprehension), as the last one standing of all the authors (except perhaps Livingstone?), you have to hope that he will be able to deliver the goods. Those goods don’t need to be the best out there, but amongst the best would be a nice way to end the series.
So, of course, I was very curious to have a taste in Green’s very first offering. But what kind of a taste would it leave? A sour taste? Not really, more akin to a Jawbreaker, or let’s say, this book could easily be renamed Backbreaker! Cause this is what it will do to you, the gamer: Jon started hard and heavy with a mean streak. Perhaps a compensation for the fact that he looks so nice in real life? But let’s put the kidding aside and go straight to the nitty-gritty.
Okay, what happened to Alan Langford? Did he get swapped with an evil, talentless doppelganger? There’s an artist out there, not sure who, who tries very hard to imitate Mr Langford’s style, but fails hard most of the time. There’s lots of lovely details described by Jon Green over the course of the story - the guy certainly doesn’t lack imagination - but most of those details can’t be find in the illos found in this book. The rest, what little is left, ends up mostly butchered. Take for example that giant moleman taking you in for a night. He looks more like grandma hamster (that’s me being nice) and those fireflies he keeps in a glass jar? Looks more like maggots to me. It’s like everything’s been drawn with the thickest pencil ever. Such a shame. One or three illos actually look like they’ve been drawn by the real Alan Langford, but that’s it. After that he was taken over. Which reminds me: I don’t have any contacts with any kind of services who could look into the case, but if YOU know anything about the actual whereabouts of Alan Langford, could you please take a look at that doppelganger x-file? I’m not sure what kind of eye colour this particular doppelganger is supposed to have (I’d bet white à la Twin Peaks), but I’m pretty sure the real Mr. Langford is currently rotting away in a dank cell someplace, so please, for the man’s earlier work’s sake, do something about it! We must put a stop to talentless clones! On the other end, I really like Martin McKenna’s new cover, much more in line with the wanted tone of the book.
But enough ranting already. If I continue, someone’s bound to ask me how’s my talent doing? My talent for ranting is fine, I thank you. So with shifty eyes I’ll move on. For his first book, Mr. Green devised quite an interesting story. It’s got a bit of a contrived setting: hero is sent on a guilt trip to retrieve the big bad book by useless monks very keen on finger pointing. Boo-hoo how was I supposed to know I was letting the big bad in? I didn’t see any of you lot try to do something about it. Plus, in any case, if you’re gonna guilt trip me into going, couldn’t you send some people with me? Why, perhaps summon the nearest task force? The end of the world is at stake! (sort of)
It’s also a bit of a hodge-podge of ideas, but its all tied-up nicely with an underlying theme of witchcraft, which is quite clever as it allows much freedom in what could befall the hero. It’s also clear with the way the book is spread that Stephan Hand had a big influence on Jon: admitted by the author himself, he is a big fan of Dead of Night. Just take a look at that book and you’ll see that the map with it’s main goal is laid out pretty much in a similar fashion. No problem there as DoN is a pretty good book. Gameplay wise there also a smidge of Keith Martin sprinkled left and right, I believe. Not so much a problem here either as Mr. Martin brought quite a few interesting changes to the FF mold himself.
Where it hurts the most though is in the fairness of the gameplay. It’s hard to tell if it was a mistake or just intended to be this mean, but this book is nearly unbeatable. It’s been criticize enough on this, so I won’t linger, but let’s just say that losing a few key roll of the dice at the beginning of the book is a nearly impossible thing to do, especially when you consider that you have to make a few odd choices to get there, mostly going against the grain of what logic would dictate. And then there’s that bottle neck near the end, reminding me a lot of the one in Trial of Champions. You’ll find out quickly at that point if you’ve picked the right items along the road. And then there’s that 50-50 chance of dying. Simple roll of the die. And there’s nothing you can do to influence the outcome. Harsh.
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous reviewing for the first time a Green book. I have to face the not-so-damaging truth that most of my reviews are not read by the authors concerned, but this one might be, as Jon Green is known to lurk here from time to time. Lots of pressure! But it’s all good. In the end, even with all the problems this book have, I had quite a lot of fun. Even though I kept failing at the end, I didn’t mind that much cause it meant I would get a chance to go on a tangent and meet some more of the weird denizens lying the paths of Ruddlestone. And as for my initial apprehension? I now feel relief. Cause Jon showed me here that he had lots of potential for fun adventures to be had, and I’m awaiting the next ones eagerly. Plus, I hear from fans around that he did improve over his mean streak over time (acquiring wisdom, no doubt), so that’s another thing to look forward. Bring it on!
Take for example that giant moleman taking you in for a night. He looks more like grandma hamster (that’s me being nice)
He's always made me think of those Sylvanian Families toys en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvanian_Families. Probably not what Jon was intending I agree. Silly mole-men aside though, I quite like the illustrations in Spellbreaker (in fact the one of the ogre would probably be among my favourites for the series). As a whole, Alan's illustrated other books better, but I don't think this one is so much worse. He's always pretty heavy with his lining which is one of the things I like about his style.
On the other end, I really like Martin McKenna’s new cover, much more in line with the wanted tone of the book.
I think I'm pretty much alone on this, but I prefer the original. The demon's expression is a bit goofy, but there's something quite sinister about it and I love the evil look on Nazek's face.
It’s also clear with the way the book is spread that Stephan Hand had a big influence on Jon: admitted by the author himself, he is a big fan of Dead of Night.
I think you can definitely see the influence Stephen had on Jon. Knights of Doom is even more similar to Dead of Night, casting you as a knight templar. And there's also some techniques of Stephen's (separating markets into mundane items and exotic ones in Legend of the Shadow Warriors and the skeleton attack on the farmhouse in Dead of Night) that crop up in a few of Jon's books. Though, I find Jon's books are generally more atmospheric than Stephen's.
Even though I kept failing at the end, I didn’t mind that much cause it meant I would get a chance to go on a tangent and meet some more of the weird denizens lying the paths of Ruddlestone.
This is what I like best about this book: there's plenty of interesting encounters on the wrong paths. Too many books put all the good stuff on the true path and fill the false ones with bland encounters.
Thanks Kieran, it's always fun to discuss stuff, even when we don't see eye to eye. I guess I painted a pretty negative portrait of Alan Langford's illos. Let's say they took me by surprise, it's not that they are so bad so much as they don't feel right "up there" with what this artist produced before. Look at most of the animals on display, lots are goofy, I mean, where's the guy who drew up that awesome tiger in Island of the Lizard King? On the other end, I thought the illo for the Barrow Guardian was quite good, to name only one.
And I share your feelings about having interesting stuff happening on the wrong paths, always interesting and adds replay value. As for the HAND having influences on Jon (at least early on) it's all cool by me. I've always been of the kind to think that more of a good stuff is definitely... good! Just think if it would have been Martin Allen (Sky Lord's author) ending up influencing Jon. The humanity...
Just think if it would have been Martin Allen (Sky Lord's author) ending up influencing Jon. The humanity...
I dunno. Maybe instead of Howl of the Werewolf we could have Howl of the Mistral, where you're in a race against time to stop yourself turning into a 4-armed warrior with a habit of stopping to play pool during life or death situations. I'm not sure I can think of a worse fate.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Dec 28, 2013 0:55:46 GMT
I love and hate this book in equal measure. I bought and read all the books as an adult in a fit of nostalgia about ten years ago. All beyond about Demons of the Deep were new to me, and CoH aside, I felt like I was going through the motions...until this beauty. Totally absorbing but I kept dying and starting again until I'd exhausted all the options. I cheated in the end, and felt cheated. LOSE A LUCK ROLL? Has anyone beaten this book straight through, because I did a rough calculation afterwards and believe it virtually mathematically impossible?
Definitely my fav non Jackson/Livingstone book by a mile.
You don't have to lose a Luck roll, but you do have to take your time killing some weak enemies which is near impossible with a high Skill. A high Skill which is pretty much compulsory given the amount of tough enemies in the book. You also only have a 1 in 6 chance of getting an essential item, need to start off with lots of gold (and probably win at Eclipse too), pass a random 50-50 roll and pass pretty much all the numerous Luck tests (with very few ways to replenish Luck). The optimal path is also very narrow and convoluted so even with ignoring dice rolls it's tough as hell.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Dec 28, 2013 0:58:04 GMT
I haven't read it for ten years but remember having to lose a Luck roll so as to get thrown in jail or something. Maybe it was had to lose against a low Skill opponent instead? Actually, the latter would be more difficult to achieve, because at least you could run down your Luck in prior battles.
Might play it again after I've finished Bloodbones, which I'm also liking a lot.
Might play it again after I've finished Bloodbones, which I'm also liking a lot.
Glad you're enjoying my stuff. I agree that where Spellbreaker was hot on atmosphere when it comes to game design it's sadly lacking.
I tried very hard with all my post-Bloodbones titles to make sure that the gameplay matched the writing in terms of quality. Have you read Howl of the Werewolf, Stormslayer or Night of the Necromancer?
I tried very hard with all my post-Bloodbones titles to make sure that the gameplay matched the writing in terms of quality.
Your efforts certainly show and are much appreciated. The good work must continue.
What can I say about JG's books?
Of your Wizard titles, Bloodbones is probably my favourite (I enjoy the challenge). Iit IS tough even for a Skill 10 hero. A simple chance to revisit the Market prior to entering the pirates' hideout would have made a big difference in terms of difficulty.
Howl of the Werewolf has some solid writing and difficulty is definitely more balanced. I was mildly annoyed with the Change stat though. Unless you roll 2 or 3 against your Change, you're unlikely to fall victim to the beast within. This led to my disappointment to learn that one of the juiciest sections of the book involved having to 'fail' a Change check to reach it. I refer to paragraph 33 (which would have tied in nicely to para 300 later). I tend to play this on challenge mode, adding an extra +1 each time my Change increases.
Stormslayer, excellent gameplay that needs to be utilised in more books. Story is not as engaging as the other titles but replay value is gold.
Night of the Necromancer, your character has more lives than Mario. Hmmm... still a very good read and good powers. Again great replay value.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Dec 28, 2013 1:07:18 GMT
I'm honoured. The frustrating thing about Spellbreaker is that it only needs a few tweaks to make it playable. A lot of the later entries in the series were stupidly difficult as well though. As a reader/player there's no sense of satisfaction in having to use 'save points' throughout the books. Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge, but not one dependent on unlikely (to put it mildly) dice rolls.
Yep, got Stormslayer to read, and Necromancer came in the post today. I waved it at my daughter and said 'look, the author just spoke to me on the internet', to which she replied, 'you're going through a mid-life crisis dad'. Ha. Trying to track down a series one HotW. I think someone said it was Hammeresque so REALLY looking forward to that one.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Dec 28, 2013 1:08:32 GMT
I actually rate Spellbreaker, Knights, and Bloodbones a lot higher than Howl, Slayer and Night.
I love books which are difficult because the true path is so well hidden - the former three have great replayability for this reason. (This may also explain why Creature Of Havoc, The Crimson Tide and Siege Of Sardath are my three favourite FFs of all.) The only problem I have is where the required dice rolls are unfair - for instance, the Faith check to get the Heal-All in Spellbreaker. This could have been easily fixed if the player had the chance to pick up the trinkets at the market beforehand (as there is a chance to acquire more Faith points there), or simply by not adding such a great number to the dice roll. The true path should be easy to play, but difficult to find if you don't already know it.
What is beyond question, of course, is that all seven Jon Green books are very beautifully and richly written - the prose and the worldbuilding is first class.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Dec 28, 2013 1:10:23 GMT
Yep, got Stormslayer to read, and Necromancer came in the post today. I waved it at my daughter and said 'look, the author just spoke to me on the internet', to which she replied, 'you're going through a mid-life crisis dad'.
That's really funny, I can just picture the scene!
A little while after my first experience of Keep and Stalkers, another batch of FF books with which I was unfamiliar turned up in the same charity shop. I avoided buying them all, because I wasn't properly getting back into FF, but I did get a couple that looked as if they might be a little different from the norm. The first of these was Spellbreaker, which got my attention because of the claim on page 1 that my character had something to do with the theft of the Black Grimoire. Once I'd got the book, and found out just how contrived that aspect was, I was a little disappointed, but the book had enough atmosphere to make up for that. My first attempt ended in a fiery death while attempting to de-rat Aryll.
For this attempt I'm using the fractionally less insanely difficult Wizard edition, and working on the assumption that the surrender option added to section 173 was supposed to be included in 120 as well (or instead). If I survive long enough for it to make any difference, that is.
Character creation is an impressive mix of fives and sixes. My chances of winning are still infinitesimally small.
So, having been used by the villain to exploit a particularly wacky loophole in his quasi-vampiric restraining order, I find myself plunged straight into battle. Keith Martin may have pioneered the 'fight in section 1' gimmick, but Jon Green's the real poster boy for throwing FF heroes into combat right at the start of an adventure. One of these days I'll have to see if he somehow managed to shoehorn a punch-up into the beginning of his Doctor Who gamebook. I can't help but wonder if the interview for Fighting Fantazine had a preliminary bout of fisticuffs before the first question could be asked.
My first fight over, I then learn the manner in which I have doomed the world, and promise to try and sort things out. Before setting off, I make a quick stop in the garden, and don't take the garlic, as I'm pretty sure that it's a red herring here. Offered the opportunity to do a good deed, make some cash, and [metaknowledge]get onto the path through the book that isn't guaranteed to end in my hideous death[/meta], I agree to become a male escort.
One consequence of having died in this book as often as I have done is that the earliest parts have become ingrained in my memory, so I easily avoid the pre-fight bit of the ambush and go straight into Brigand-thumping. Afterwards I get a key with a slightly-more-justified-than-usual numerical inscription (though the late Lord Attana must have been a bit of a skinflint to have only the year and not the actual date of the wedding engraved on it).
In the tavern I join Chaucer and his friends, and comprehensively fail to impress them with my story-telling skills. The problem is that I mostly do urban fantasy (or whatever it is that they now call what would've been categorised as urban fantasy before the subgenre got hijacked by leather-clad women kicking undead backside), and Ruddlestone's just not ready for that kind of tale. Think I'm doomed now.
Alas, I miss having the Pilgrim dream (wonder if I had the wood-based cyborg one from last night again), which further endoomens me. Next morning I head straight for the shrine, as I know I won't have the opportunity after I visit the market, and I'd rather not risk learning that a trip to the taverns is similarly preclusive of this essential detour. I buy the obligatory copy of The Big Issue along the way, but I still need to roll 0 or less on 1d6 to get what I need. For completeness' sake I make the roll anyway, and it's another spectacular fail.
Technically, there's nothing to stop me from turning round and going back again, and as I'd meet the beggar every time, I could have up to 5 more attempts at getting what I require before my cash runs out, with better odds on each subsequent try. That would be going just that bit too far, though, so I shall accept that I have failed miserably and will die, probably by plague, long before I get near the finale, and see how far I can get before succumbing to the inevitable.
Checking out a tavern, I decide to gamble, and discover that the rules neglect to mention the important detail of who rolls first. The advantage is usually with the house, so I assume that Drogo gets to start, as that should give him a slight lead. It's a painfully tedious game, which I end up winning 8-2, and if I didn't suspect that I need to buy that overpriced bird (not that it'll help me this time round), I would avoid gambling in this book in future, but I'm not sure I can afford not to play (providing I win).
Proceeding to the market, I buy one of the genuine relics, Smith and Thomson's less annoyingly-ending series (oh, no, not that kind of falcon), and assorted herbs I'd need if I weren't going to die before I get to use them, thereby getting confirmation that I need to win something if I want to buy the lot.
So I go on my way and manage to fail another roll (which I could only do with a double 6 this time round), consequently succumbing to the Piper's music and winding up with a novel by Andrew Hunt branded onto my palm. Getting doomeder by the minute...
Heading south regardless, I spend the night with Hans Moleman, politely declining his offer to foretell my hideous fate. As there's nothing I can do in Aryll (but get the dreaded lurgey and die), I don't bother visiting, and am attacked by wolves. Once I've dealt with them, I detour into the forest for a rematch against the brigands. I almost win the fight - probably would have done if I'd bothered to eat Provisions after getting mauled by the wolves, but the inevitability of failure has finally caused me to lose interest.
Well, I had to write a program to play through most of this book for me, but I finally managed to win it without cheating. This book is one step away from brilliance but swerved at the last moment to become maddening. The annoying thing is that it's ludicrously hard but not very many changes would be needed to make it non-hard. If you could just
1) Visit the market before trying to get the Heal-All 2) Have the option to surrender to the guard 3) Not have an irritating 50% random death chance near the end
then it'd be pretty playable for say a 10/20/10 character. I'd probably change the gold situation too, so only very poor characters need to play Eclipse. Another thing that could be done is to switch the herbs around a bit so that you can get right to the end without having to do the Canker sidequest; this would allow the player to explore the end section of the book with losing characters.