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Item - The Land of Changes

Series: Warlock
Contained In: Warlock #11 (Magazine)
Translated Into: A változások földje (Hungarian)
Author: Pracy, Ruth
Illustrator: Martin, Pete
Date: August, 1986
Length: 200 sections
User Summary: Sequel to The Floating City.
Ed's Thoughts: My memories of the second instalment of Ruth Pracy's saga suggested that it wasn't as good as its predecessor. While The Floating City turned out not to be as good as I'd remembered, I was right about TLoC's being inferior to it. I just hadn't realised the extent to which it's worse.

Having left the Floating City some time before, you are growing tired of the land of Winter, and wish to return to your home in Summer. However, the route there leads through Autumn, the Land of Changes. Plants are said to grow with unusual rapidity there, and the wind can turn their life cycle into a frenzy of blossom and death. Storms can be hazardous indeed to those who dare pass through the land. Nevertheless, you set off into Autumn.

The rules allow for reuse of your character from TFC, if you played it, and it's at this point that the first problem becomes apparent. A new character gets the customary five Provision and two slugs of your preferred potion. A character carried over from TFC – who knows? Do you have whatever remained to you at the end of the previous adventure? Have your stats returned to their Initial levels in the intervening time? Have you found fresh stocks of Provisions and/or potion? Your guess is as good as mine.

An extremely minor annoyance is that this is the second (and last) dual-system Warlock adventure, playable with FF rules or D&D rules. Consequently, almost every roll, attribute amendment or fight gets extra bookkeeping text to describe what must be done because it has to give instructions for both systems. The extra waffle is tiresome but more easily ignored than I'd expected. The adventure itself has some similarities with TFC, but not in terms of plot. As before, Ms. Pracy has chosen to ignore the 'standard' legends in favour of less familiar mythologies, raiding Welsh, Scottish and Italian folklore among others. Her idiosyncratic vision of heroism again plays a prominent part – on the 'best' path through TLoC you must choose between your greatest wish and your heart's desire, and only one of these meets her standard for heroes.

Mind you, that's still a fairer choice than the one that lies not much further ahead. At the pillar of rock you have four options from which to choose, and three of them lead to Instant Death. Mind you, you have been given a hint - which will almost certainly lead you to make one of the fatal decisions.

One improvement on TFC is that unwarranted aggression is no longer held in such esteem, and the text hints at this change of policy at an early stage. Many other decisions are quite obvious if you're familiar with folk tales, or if you pay careful attention to the text. You'll probably still get killed by that pillar a couple of times, though.

A low Skill (should you not be carrying over a veteran from TFC) isn't too much of a handicap, as most fights are avoidable. On the 'true path' you'll have to fight a Skill 10 enemy, but only for 6 rounds. Bad Luck will prove much more detrimental to your health, but there are enough bonuses going around that you're liable to be restored to your Initial level between Tests.

The unnecessary splitting of paragraphs that marred TFC is present in TLoC as well. What makes it worse is that later in the adventure Ms. Pracy appears to be running out of free sections, leading to some clumsy retroactive recycling of Instant Deaths (described in a little more detail in the list of bugs below). The random transportation through space and time following the death of the Redcap (which could lead you straight back to the start of the fight you've just won) comes across as an act of authorial desperation caused by a lack of free sections in which to resolve things more sensibly.

The artwork isn't bad, but it's not as good as the pictures accompanying TFC. The Self-Bored Stone in the background on page 36 appears to have been sculpted, which is just wrong, and the Redcap on page 40 should be indoors (and ought to look more formidable and less like a jolly Dwarf).

While there's no mention of insects in the wood, this adventure is full of bugs. The between-paragraph picture of that annoying pillar doesn't match the description in the text (one letter on each side, not four letters on one side and some symbols that caught Mr. Martin's fancy on the other visible one). There's a superfluous 'd' on the end of the word 'foul' in section 21. How can a fight against a Skill 3 Stamina 5 opponent reduce you to the pitiful condition described in section 30? Two of the choices available when you confront the Gwyllion at section 39 lead to deaths caused by a completely different opponent. Section 74 says 'You may eat some Provisions [...] if you wish,' (my emphasis) but the section to which it leads works on the assumption that you do eat. In section 98 'Self-Bored Stoned' should be 'a Self-Bored Stone' (far be it from me to suggest that either 'bored' or 'stoned' might describe the authoress' condition while writing this). The second option in section 122 should lead to 132, not 13. There should be a section to which you can turn if you win the fight at paragraph 125 before the 6-round limit is up (quite possible even without using Luck). Section 130 says you may wear a mantle if you have one, but neglects to say where to go if you do so (88 seems the most likely destination). Section 172 assumes you possess the horn, but it is possible to get there without having acquired it. The choices available at section 193 lead to paragraphs 183 and 196, both of which are visible from there.

Spoilers ahead

The adventure also has a peculiar lack of focus. There are many ways in which to achieve your initial aim, but they all constitute failure. Success involves taking on a new quest (to be covered in a future adventure). To find out what this quest involves you must swear to undertake it "or else die in the attempt," yet there's no penalty if you subsequently mess up and have to abandon the quest and go home.

End spoilers

Despite some nice descriptive passages, TLoC doesn't really work. It comes across as a rush job, not properly thought-out or proofread, and is a poor sequel to TFC. Given that one of its primary functions is to set up the third adventure in the series, the cancellation of Warlock magazine before the next instalment of the saga came out would have made it even more of a disappointment. But then, funnily enough, Warlock's hated rival Proteus came to the rescue and published the next part....

More reviews by Ed

Users Who Own This Item: dave2002a, Ed, Gallicus, Harvey, kinderstef, knginatl, le maudit, outspaced
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