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Item - The Weaver of Nightmares

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Series: Proteus — no. 12
Author: Brunskill, David
Illustrators: Mitchell, Judy (cover and interior)
Campbell, Paul (interior)
Challenger, P. (interior)
De Leuw, Dave (interior)
Dunn, Mark (interior)
Harrod, Gary (interior)
Hunter, Alan (interior)
Pickering, John (interior)
Edwards, Les (poster)
Date: 1987
Ed's Thoughts:

Having crossed a desert for no readily apparent reason, you reach the doomed town of Glengatha. Its people need to relocate to have any chance of survival, but the only suitable land is owned by the eponymous Weaver, a master of illusions. Their attempts to make some mutually beneficial arrangement with him have come to nothing because, well, he just likes being a git, as far as can be deduced from the text. He's taken their envoys prisoner and repulsed their attempts to rescue the envoys, capturing more Glengathans at the same time. Being the sort of idiot who crosses deserts for no particular reason, you promptly volunteer to rescue the prisoners. All you have to do is cross the sea to the Weaver's home, find the seven tokens he's concealed around it, and present them to him without getting killed by any of the assorted monsters and lunatics who live with him. Sounds a right barrel of laughs, eh?

The rules are basic, and you have just two attributes, plus some gold. You can buy some potions that may help you in your quest if you manage to pop in on Frowellyn, the wise woman of the woods, on your way to the Weaver's domain.

It wasn't until I played TWoN that I realised how few completely random Instant Deaths there have been in Proteus in a long while. It's strange how annoying I found the return of such things. Taking the wrong turn and instantly getting zapped into the sewers is no less arbitrary than taking the wrong turn and dying a dozen sections later because you didn't find the Pan-pipes to pacify the Spectres, yet I got far more irritated at the former than the latter. In case you hadn't figured it out, this is another item hunt. You'll need to find several things in addition to the Weaver's tokens to have any chance of success. Getting everything you need is, of course, the tricky bit. In some areas you have considerable freedom of movement, and can double back on yourself and explore alternate routes for a while, but in other regions your options are unnecessarily limited. It's not so bad where the text provides some rationale for it, such as the rapidly moving floors near the Weaver's room, but being forced to go east just because the text says that's what you do is as tiresome as ever.

Apart from one weird and unavoidable fight in which you have a 1 in 6 chance of death, a 1 in 6 chance of victory, and a 2 in 3 chance of having to reroll, combat isn't too bad. You don't have to fight anyone with a Dexterity higher than 10. That's not very encouraging if you roll up a Dexterity of 7 or 8, but it's still an improvement on all those Fighting Fantasy books that throw Skill 12 enemies at you like confetti.

Another interesting detail is that some of the creatures you face are illusions, and can do you no harm as long as you don't believe in them. Encountering a new foe often presents a challenge - do you fight and risk unnecessary Strength loss, or do you ignore the thing and risk getting badly hurt if it's real?

Some of Frowellyn's potions can also come in handy during fights, though regrettably the bonuses given are now applied directly to attributes, thereby contradicting the rule about not exceeding Initial values. Besides, you don't get the chance to take a potion before that unavoidable fight against a Dexterity 10 enemy, so no stretching of the rules will help you if you got lousy stats.

As usual, there are many puzzles. The time factor included in the Frog King's puzzle is a nifty but flawed gimmick, as you're liable to remember the correct answer after solving it once, should you need to go round again. It's a bit of a pain that the instructions for solving the puzzle with the metal pieces are in a different paragraph from where you actually do the puzzle, but you can make a note or flick back to the appropriate section easily enough.

TWoN is a buggier issue than usual. It's possible to go round in circles and repeatedly visit Frowellyn, which the text shouldn't really allow. There are three plausible wrong answers to the Weaver's final challenge, but one of them, rather than leading to Instant Death, takes you to an unrelated section near the beginning of the adventure. Section 49 implies that you can score just 1 on 2d6. Section 69 overlooks the possibility of your throwing a number equal to your Strength score on the dice. There's a fragment of superfluous text at the end of section 84. Section 99 lacks an option for disbelieving the advice you have been given. The text and artwork are inconsistent regarding the key made from a finger/finger-bone.

The artwork is good on the whole. P. Challenger's Dreadthread looks a little too comical for the tone of the adventure, and De Leuw's main illustrations, while not really bad in themselves, are nowhere near as good as they'd have been by other artists. I'd love to have seen what Paul Campbell or Gary Harrod would have made of the undead monstrosity. Highlights include Campbell's Grenschetch, Harrod's Alligator, and Mark Dunn's Woman in White. Judy Mitchell's brief career with Proteus also gets off to a good start, particularly her repulsive yet pitiable Glop.

Despite the fact that I seem to have done little but complain about it, I don't think TWoN is a bad adventure. Flawed and annoying in places, yes, but there are enough nice touches to compensate for that.

More reviews by Ed

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