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Item - Nightmare Realm of Baba Yaga

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Series: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks — no. 8
Translated Into: Baba Yaaga no akumu no oukoku [ババ・ヤーガの悪夢の王国] (Japanese)
Nel regno di Baba Yaga (Italian)
O reino de pesadelo de Baba Yaga (Portuguese)
El reino de pesadilla de Baba Yaga (Spanish)
Author: Moore, Roger E.
Illustrators: Easley, Jeff (cover)
Nelson, Mark A. (interior)
Date: May, 1986
ISBN: 0880382864 / 9780880382861
Length: 189 pages (229 sections)
Number of Endings: 24 (22 failures, 1 worth one point, 2 worth two points)
User Summary: You and your friend Mjolnir, a dwarven thief, must recover a magical gem stolen by the evil witch Baba Yaga.
Demian's Thoughts:

This is a fairly good gamebook; it has a lot of places to explore, some weird situations and a background based on somewhat less well-known mythology than usual. The concept of judgment points, a score which changes depending on your wisdom and which affects the way Baba Yaga thinks of you, is also an interesting idea. I managed to get through successfully on my first try, though, so unless I was very lucky the challenge factor is a bit low.

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Fireguard's Thoughts:

I'm a longtime fan of the Quest for Glory series of PC games, which fans will know also features the titular witch as a quasi-antagonist in several of its entries. Like in Quest for Glory, this book acknowledges that while old Baba has something you want, you haven't got a chance of just charging in and ridding the world of her. Reminding me of one of my favorite gaming properties put me in a good mood to read this book, but does Moore's book stack up?

One of the book's unique features is the Judgment score, which determines how welcoming Baba is if and when you finally make it to her. It's an interesting idea, but the problem is you have as many points as you'll get at the beginning and lose them by making foolish choices. They should've been something you started earning once play began, plain and simple. Also, in general the choices that cost you points are pretty easy to spot.

As for the adventure itself, it's nothing too special. It feels like your standard dungeon crawl with you wandering from random area to random area, fighting or escaping from a new monster in each, until the author decides you've seen enough and has you finally meet with Baba Yaga. The writing was bland and the banter between my character and his dwarf buddy did little to involve me in their adventure. The gimmick of having a sword that can cancel out magic also wasn't as cool as Moore probably hoped.

The book's replay value suffers since, as noted below, all paths lead to one place. I can only speak for myself, but while I don't mind having a new adventure each time I replay a book, I prefer it when I can arrive at success a different way each time too. If the writing and atmosphere are good enough I can waive this rule, but sadly this book doesn't rate high enough on the quality scale to warrant that.

All in all, this book had promise but failed to be anything more than adequate, if not less.

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Guillermo's Thoughts:

(review based on the Spanish translation)

Despite the fact that I'm very fond of the Russian folk tales this book is based on, I found this to be one of the least interesting books in the series. At first, it looks like it's got the qualities to be a winner: the writing is good, the atmosphere is often excellent, and the adventure is action-packed enough (though, as is often the case in the series, not very difficult to complete successfully). However, its flaws become apparent pretty quickly. All the paths through the book always converge on the same final section, which means the adventure has little actual replay value. The final section is also very easy to get through most of the time. Another serious drawback is that practically every encounter involves combat, with the player having rather few chances to use his/her brains or other character skills. This made me feel less interested every time I played through. Don't go out of your way to read this.

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unclefunny's Thoughts:

This is an entertaining but flawed gamebook. The adventure's kaleidoscopic design is thematically appropriate, given the supernatural nature of Baba Yaga's hut, and with several elements left to chance, it's possible to arrive at the end in many different ways. En route, there are a variety of potential monster encounters: hobgoblins, elementals, killer frog men and even an animated broom.

However, there are two main drawbacks to the book. One, as several other users have pointed out, is judgment points - not a bad idea, but poorly executed. I agree that it would have been more interesting to have judgment points be something that you acquire along the way for avoiding or getting out of difficult situations (similarly to how other adventures might award extra experience points throughout gameplay) rather than by simply avoiding decisions that are pretty obviously going to cost you (killing that cute little gnome right before you meet Baba Yaga? Seems like a solid idea to me). For that matter, your final encounter with Baba Yaga could just as easily have been decided by experience points.

The other is that much of it feels arbitrary. Several skill checks end up not having much of an impact on the story; in fact there are a few that passing only opens the door for you to do something dumb (such as killing the above mentioned gnome). Even with its non-linear design, the book could provide more of a clear sense of direction and cause and effect. Add it all together and you have an adventure that is still amusing after multiple plays but could have been more.

More reviews by unclefunny

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Users with Extra Copies: Chanticrow - Cover is kinda roughed up, but the book is intact and readable.
CSquared - Rough Shape

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