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Item - Castle Arcania

(box front)
(box back)
(book one cover)
(book two cover)
Series: 1 on 1 Adventure Gamebooks — no. 1
Alternate Titles: You Are Eric Sunsword, Legendary Knight of the Northern Marches (book one title)
You Are Neves, An Ancient and Powerful Wizard (book two title)
Author: Ward, James M.
Illustrator: Day, Larry
Date: April, 1985
ISBN: 0394545656 / 9780394545653
Length: 160 pages per book
User Summary: A good knight and a devious wizard enter the ancient Castle Arcania and battle to the death over the woman they both love, Princess Mara.
Demian's Thoughts: This isn't a bad start to the series, though it's not particularly spectacular in any way. The most interesting aspect of the adventure is probably the fact that there's a lot of tactical strategy to the game. Players can independently move the various characters that they control in different directions through Castle Arcania, setting traps for each other and generally being sneaky and clever; in fact, it almost feels like a board game at times. However, this freedom of movement means that the story itself is pretty weak, and most of the events in it are fairly unengaging encounters with monsters. I was particularly disappointed that, upon defeating my enemy, there was no victory text; the game simply ended without any sense of closure. The rules provided here are fairly clear, being less confusing than some later volumes, but ambiguities do creep in occasionally. I'd also have to say from experience that this isn't the best set in the series to play by e-mail; turns are short and numerous, and it drags out far longer than it would in a face-to-face setting. You can see the results of my e-mail game by following the link below....

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Fullerton's Thoughts: In the Andy vs. Demian game log, a question came up about exactly how Stasheen's sling worked. I believe there are two different answers, and I believe they are both correct. (Gasp!)

The rules say, "Stasheen can use her sling in the first two Combat Turns of any battle. If she hits with the bullet, it magically does one more Hit Point of damage (4 Hit Points damage) every Combat Turn after that until the battle is over. She uses a dagger when not using the sling."

(The obvious detail -- which wasn't brought up as a question -- is that the sling can only be used on the first two Combat Turns. After that, Stasheen can only use her dagger. I only mention this for the sake of clarity.)

So how does the "it magically does one more Hit Point of damage..." part really work?

Correct Answer #1: A strict reading of the rules supports Demian's interpretation, whereby if the sling hits on either or both of the first two Combat Turns, it automatically does 4 more damage on every turn after the one where it first hit. Hitting in both of the first two Combat Turns doesn't cause 8 automatic damage to be dealt; it still does just 4 damage per turn in that case.

But I don't think Correct Answer #1 is necessarily the intended way for it to work. A big clue to the intent may be the weapon's name...

Correct Answer #2: Stasheen's character sheet lists the weapon as a Sling of Wounding. In AD&D*, a creature hit once by a Wounding weapon takes exactly 1 more hit point of damage each round, not more. So in Castle Arcania, the same should be true: If the sling hits on either or both of the first two Combat Turns, it automatically does 1 (not 4) more damage on every turn after the one where it first hit. Hitting in both of the first two Combat Turns doesn't cause 2 automatic damage to be dealt; it still does just 1 damage per turn in that case.

I imagine that the parenthetical "4 Hit Points damage" bit was added by the editor, who may not have understood the intent, nor the damage (pun intended) they caused by adding it.

One could argue that by using AD&D as a reference point, if the sling hits on both of the first two Combat Turns, it should deal 2 automatic damage per turn, since that's how it would work in AD&D. Perhaps, but I also imagine that the potential of 2 automatic damage per turn was intentionally left out for simplicity & space; Stasheen's character sheet would have needed another long sentence to clearly explain that possibility.

It's been years since I played this book, but to my modern-day gamer sensibilities, Correct Answer #1 seems extremely powerful. In Castle Arcania, an automatic 4 Hit Points of damage is equivalent to a normal attack that does 8 Hit Points of damage. (Attacks have a 45% chance of hitting, and thus an 8 Hit Point of damage attack would average just under 4 Hit Points of damage per turn.) Stasheen has a 75% chance of triggering the ability in the first place, and she also gets to make her normal attacks in addition, and that's a lot of damage output for a supporting character on Neves's side.

* I'm referring to 1st edition AD&D here, since that was the current edition at the time of Castle Arcania's release. See page 166 of the 1st edition DMG for details on the Sword of Wounding.

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SilentGunman's Thoughts: If you can get past the almost comically bad cover art, this is a promising start to the series. I like how the two sides are balanced (Eric is a better fighter, but has two allies; Neves has limited offensive capability but has 4 allies). The strategy is also intriguing, since you can set traps for one another. The story is a bit lacking, and the illustrations are mediocre at best and terrible at their worst. The gameplay and the strategy win out in the end, though. A solid start to a game series I am very fond of.

More reviews by SilentGunman

Users Who Own This Item: AlHazred, arcaril, Ardennes, B0N0V0X, BarefootJimmy, Barker1952, bookwormjeff, Cloquewerk, CSquared, Ffghtermedic (shrinkwrapped), Fireguard, Fullerton, hoops4ever, Hugues, karalynn, katzcollection, killagarilla, killagirilla, kinderstef, le maudit, mattender, mlvoss, novelist1982, SilentGunman, Sir Olli, sireeyore, spragmatic (shrinkwrapped (NEW), Virtua Sinner, zat (Neves)
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