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Trail Sinister

Series: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks #14
Translated Into: Ruta siniestra (Spanish)
Il sentiero della paura (Italian)
Author: Brumbaugh, James
Illustrators: Easley, Jeff (cover)
Barr, George (interior)
Release Date: August, 1987
ISBN: 0880384530 / 9780880384537
Length:184 pages (214 sections)
Number of Endings:20
User Summary: As Kardel Arthur Dolan, a young nobleman, you must recover five stolen plaques needed by your father to defend against an army of trolls. On your journey you are accompanied by a wizard and a thief, neither of whom you entirely trust.
Demian's Thoughts: This is the shortest book in the series, having the lowest page count and the largest print. Still, it takes quite a while to get through since it requires a lot of good luck, especially towards the beginning. Overall this isn't a terribly good book; it's far more linear and combat-oriented than it should be and requires very little strategy and too much luck to complete successfully. One plot twist at the end is rather weak and unexplained, which doesn't help matters any.

More reviews by Demian

Guillermo's Thoughts: (review based on the Spanish translation)

This is a very linear adventure. It's entirely composed of different miniquests which are always performed in the same order, and there are few choices that are really interesting or cleverly designed. Even though the successful path feels rather long, it doesn't seem too difficult, since I played through twice and was successful both times (which isn't too surprising, given the facts that the player is given several chances to succeed at a particular task which requires rolling a skill check, and that the level of difficulty of such checks is low in general). Even though it tries, I don't think the book is really successful: the player is sometimes offered the option of negotiating instead of fighting in order to achieve the adventure's goals, but both combat and negotiation are almost always resolved using only skill checks, instead of letting the player influence the outcomes by making decisions. I believe that a negotiation process in a gamebook is far more interesting if the player is allowed some choice in what to say and how to interact with nonplayer characters, instead of letting the dice determine everything.

This book uses a similar premise to that found in the second book in this series, The Ghost Tower, in that the player character is accompanied by two others which he isn't sure he can trust. Unfortunately, the use of this premise isn't always effective here, since one of the companion characters can die before the adventure's climax is reached, thus precluding sometimes the possibility of a final confrontation which could resolve the plot. This isn't very frequent, though, and usually both companion characters will be present for the adventure's final confrontation, which constitutes an improvement over The Ghost Tower.

Despite its flaws, this book didn't make me cringe (unlike, for example, Nightmare Realm of Baba Yaga and Gates of Death), and I found the reading experience enjoyable for the most part. For a first-time author I guess it's not too bad, and it's probably an adequate way to kill a couple of hours, but I certainly don't see it at the top of any recommendation list.

More reviews by Guillermo

Errata:Section 36 ends abruptly, though presumably it's supposed to be a fatal ending.
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