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Item - The Ghost Tower

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Series: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks — no. 2
Translated Into: Goosuto tawaa no tamashii no ishi [ゴーストタワーの魂の石] (Japanese)
Spöktornets väktare (Swedish)
A torre fantasma (Portuguese)
La torre fantasma (Italian)
La torre fantasma (Spanish)
Le Trésor aux maléfices (French)
Adapted From: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (Role-Playing Material)
Author: Blashfield, Jean (F.)
Illustrators: Parkinson, Keith (cover)
Day, Larry (interior)
Date: May, 1985
ISBN: 0880382155 / 9780880382151
Length: 189 pages (345 sections)
Number of Endings: 26 (1 with penalty, 21 penalty-free failures, 5 worth one point, 2 "victories")
User Summary: A resident of the world of Greyhawk, you are falsely accused of theft. The only way to clear your name is to retrieve a dangerous magical artifact from a mysterious spectral tower accompanied by two strangers who may or may not desire to kill you.
Demian's Thoughts:

This book is a miserable failure; it takes a potentially excellent gamebook plot (based on Allen Hammack's AD&D module, The Ghost Tower of Inverness) and turns it into a remarkably frustrating mess. First of all, this book is full of severe continuity problems. Characters occasionally mention things which haven't happened, possess items they shouldn't have or heal wounds that were never inflicted. This makes things rather hard to follow and often forces the reader to backtrack in confusion. As if this weren't bad enough, the construction of the game is unbelievably cruel; a long and often tedious quest leads to a situation where the odds are good that the entire party will be slaughtered completely at random. It is truly unfortunate that this book didn't get playtested rather more thoroughly before it was released; a little debugging in the continuity and balance departments could have raised the status of this book from a barely playable mess to something of a classic.

More reviews by Demian

Fireguard's Thoughts:

As much as I respect Demian for putting this site together I can't agree with him on this book. I won't say The Ghost Tower doesn't have its problems, that would be lying. But the truth is, it's not all that bad.

Unlike most books in the series, you're in control of a party of adventurers and have to manage their skills and hit points in addition to your own. I'll talk about the most glaring problem this presents right now, which is that the book has you using up your valuable healing items and spells the instant your characters get a flesh wound and expecting you to make it through the tough later parts without them. After I crossed one room the book told me to cross off both the cleric's healing spells even though only I and one companion had lost a single hit point apiece. I don't think so! And that was after reading the book for the first time in years. I had to come up with my own rules for healing (one die roll per spell or magic wafer), but after that, and some dodgy continuity aside, the book wasn't so frustrating anymore.

As I was saying, instead of just being in charge of your own character, you have to look out for three characters, their skills, and their spells and hit points. To me it made my companions a lot more personal than the ones in, oh, just about any of the non-Kingdoms of Sorcery books. Even though I was warned early in one of them was going to try to kill me I felt like I had to look out for them. It hit me hard when I realized there was no optimal ending.

The Ghost Tower isn't flawless (at the end, why am I rolling to hit a target that doesn't move?), but I say give this book a chance. It needs a little help but not many are the gamebooks I read as a child and still enjoy now.

More reviews by Fireguard

Guillermo's Thoughts:

(review based on the Spanish translation)

While Demian's review of this book is accurate about many of this book's flaws, I don't think it's either 'a miserable failure' or 'barely playable.' It certainly is a great improvement over the previous entry in practically every respect. This time there is a self-contained quest which actually makes some sense, and the book is structured so that completing it is actually interesting. In fact, among the books in this series, this is probably the one that resembles most closely the design of a Fighting Fantasy book, in that it involves a lengthy journey inside an elaborately constructed single location – a haunted castle - and its main emphases are put into exploration, combat encounters and avoiding some cleverly-devised traps.

One of the aspects in which this book really stands out is characterization. There are two companion characters. The player allocates skill points to them at the beginning of the adventure and makes skill rolls for them, so in a way the player feels like s/he is playing them as much as her / his own character. However, the plot is set up so that the player cannot fully trust her / his companions, since s/he is informed one of them will try to kill the player character once the mission is completed. As a result, a very effective feeling of tension is maintained through the entire adventure which helps to keep the reader interested.

I believe the main flaw of this book is that, although the tension generated between the characters reaches a climax at the end, this climax is not very well resolved. As Demian mentions in his review, it's possible to have one or more of the members of the party killed rather unfairly at the end, thus precluding the possibility of the killed character(s) having a face-to-face confrontation with the player character which would help resolve the plot. I also didn't find the way the choices are structured near the end to be very satisfying, as it's impossible to reach what one could call an 'optimal ending.' Another problem is that, as Demian also mentions, there are many continuity goofs, with characters casting already-exhausted spells a second time, mentioning things which haven't happened, etc. However these flaws do not really affect gameplay in any significant way.

Despite its problems, I did enjoy this adventure. There are enough encounters that really require some thought on the part of the player, and the adventure as a whole is entertaining and engaging. Recommended.

(A final note: although Demian states on this page that the adventure takes place in the AD&D World of Greyhawk setting, I honestly doubt it. There is no mention or reference of any Greyhawk town or city names anywhere in the text, and at one point the main character mentions a city called 'Garthrast' which doesn't form part of the World of Oerth. While the original The Ghost Tower of Inverness game module was indeed set on Greyhawk, it's more likely the gamebook is set on a generic campaign world).

More reviews by Guillermo

Kveto's Thoughts:

Based on the popular Ghost Tower of Inverness, this is a decent gamebook. What makes it fun is you don't just keep track of your own statistics but those of your two companions as well, even though one will betray you.

Lots of good set encounters (which may or may not be in the module, which I haven't read) including a chess set encounter that J. K. Rowling would later put in her Harry Potter books (a lot of her material seems to come from D&D books).

A fair gamebook.

More reviews by Kveto

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