Boynite rovove na Krart [Бойните ровове на Крарт] (Bulgarian)
I labirinti di Krarth (Italian)
Sejrens symbol (Danish)
Shouri no monshou o ubae! [勝利の紋章を奪え！] (Japanese)
Les treize mages (French)
Wingate, Geoff (cartography)
August 20, 2014
190990516X / 9781909905160
Ahhh - the Blood Sword series.
I still consider this series to be the most well-crafted 'single-story' gamebook series I have ever played (and there are a LOT of contenders, and yes I AM including Lone Wolf).
This first book is really only an introduction to the main story-line. It presents what, in many ways, is a self-contained adventure, while (although you don't know it at the time) presenting one or more characters who will feature prominently in future adventures.
The game-playing system has a simple but fascinating innovation: the idea of multi-character play. Essentially, anywhere between 1-4 players can control a total of 1-4 characters of the 4 character classes (fighter, mage, rogue and 'cleric'). So one solo player can control one 'high-ranking' character or four different characters. Four people can co-operate, controlling one character each. Combat is wargamed out with diagrams and positions, resulting in ongoing consultation and thought.
Although there is an impressive level of 'world-building' in this book, the story is comparatively simple, being of the familiar Deathtrap Dungeon trope. You have to initially find a patron among various rascally mages, and then wander through a deadly assortment of monsters and traps in order to get a fabulous prize.
The difficulty level is high, with a number of hard-to-avoid dice rolls and battles. The one down-side of multi-character play is the inevitable boredom for one or more players if their characters 'bite it.' Completing the adventure with less characters than you started makes the future books particularly difficult.
In summary, the first book in a stunning overall achievement.
Blood Sword is a series which has captivated me for a very long time. Till today, it is still fun to just pick up any of the books and "cheat" by just browsing around.
The first in the series starts you in the land of Krarth, where magi rule their own territories as they please. Any disputes between these magi are often settled during the tournament held in the battlepits of Krarth. Here, each magi will sponsor a party, be it a single person or a group of many adventurers.
You arrive in time to attend the tournament, but the number of magi that are left to sponsor you is very limited. You have to win a sponsor, and take your skills and wits with you as you face monsters, traps and other adventurers in an attempt to be the first to reach the exit of the battlepits.
This book sets the mood for the series nicely, and also has a side quest that gives additional experience points to your party. Not much information is given on the fantasy world that is the setting, but it's such a fun action packed book that you do not really mind.
While the Blood Sword series ranks high in my list of best ever gamebooks, the first book in said series is the weakest. That said, The Battlepits of Krarth is still good... it's just not as great as the other titles in the series.
The Battlepits of Krarth is different for starters in that it is pretty much a stand-alone adventure... the other four books in the series represent successive chapters in your quest to assemble the ancient Blood Sword and stop the Five Magi from returning to Legend and heralding the Apocalypse. The Battlepits of Krarth is, in theme, a lot like the Deathtrap Dungeon book from the Fighting Fantasy series, in that it sees you entering a dungeon full of traps (the Battlepits) with the aim of getting out alive and collecting a fat reward at the end. This book escapes greatness by not truly being a part of the whole Blood Sword cycle... as introductions go (and one assumes this was an introductory adventure in Dave Morris' role-playing campaign) it hits all the right spots though.
The adventure and ideas are pretty cliched, but well executed, and the writing is (as always) good from Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson. The host of characters within the book is great, and they really do come alive on the page... some memorable characters include the good Magus Balthazar (who is nevertheless a scheming fink), the rather cavalier Magus Kalugen (who insists on gambling with you for all of your equipment prior to you entering the 'pits'), and the treacherous Skyrimir the Giant (who is well worth defeating for both fun and the additional XP you can gain from doing so). There are also a number of magical items that are worth acquiring prior to escaping the Battlepits that can be used (and in turn are useful) in the later books of the series - the Sword of Loge Skyrunner is particularly worthwhile as I remember.
Pretty much the only thing that links this book with the others in the series is the introduction of the overarching villain of the series, the arch fiend Icon. Icon / Aikon is a great villain, and a later book in the series actually has you duelling him for the Blood Sword, and even chasing him down to the depths of Hell. The illustrations by Russ Nicholson throughout the Blood Sword series are uniformly great, but the initial portrait of Icon, with his gothic armour and the wisps of hell smoke drifting around him is fabulous. You just know that this guy is evil to the core.
This book is pretty easy to pick up on eBay... it generally goes for £3-£5. If you haven't got it, get it. While not as good or as deep as the rest of the books in the Blood Sword series, it blows the competition away.
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