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Item - Sorcerer Solitaire


Series: Tunnels and Trolls — no. 10
Platform: Adobe Acrobat
Author: Vaning, Walker
Illustrators: Pearson, Joe (cover)
Leone, Mike (interior)
Dates: 1979
February 23, 2008
Length: 30 pages
castiglione's Thoughts: Sorcerer Solitaire was billed as the first Tunnels & Trolls solitaire adventure designed purely for wizards. The author states in the preface that he was inspired to write it when one of his 1st level wizards was killed by a monster with a MR (monster-rating) of 10 in one of the other solitaires; for those of who are not familiar with the Tunnels & Trolls system, a creature with a MR 10 is basically lower than low, something so pathetic that an average (or below average) warrior ought to be able to slay it with one hand (or in some cases, both hands - yes, kick that scruffy dungeon creature into submission!) tied behind one's back.

The adventure starts with the character outside a house during a storm - the character enters the house and then the weirdness begins.

Yes, Sorcerer Solitaire is a WEIRD adventure. Some of the weirdness stems from the fact that the solitaire is designed specifically for wizards so involves extensive use of magic which results in strange things happening; a lot of the choices involve player's selecting which spells their character will cast which directs them to the appropriate paragraph which describes what happens... the Magic Matrix later made this sort of adventure structure "obsolete," providing a much cleaner and neater way of resolving how magic works within the confines of a solitaire adventure, but that's another story.

The adventure has an almost dream-like quality to it because of its utter strangeness. The strangeness is reflected in the original version's cover, which shows what looks like a middle-aged skinny hippy in a robe smoking a pipe (filled with what, I wonder) and contemplating... well, contemplating something.

As befits an adventure designed for wizards, not many of the situations in which one lands can be resolved by pulling out one's sword and hacking away with wild abandon; a wizard who attempts to get through the adventure by doing this will probably die... and die and die. Many of the situations are usually best resolved by judicious use of spells.

Despite all this, Sorcerer Solitaire is basically another dungeon crawl. Except this time, the dungeon is actually a "haunted house," and the person doing the crawling can't rely on skewering people left and right to survive the experience.

My feelings towards this adventure when I was a kid were pretty neutral. I wasn't enthusiastic about it as I was about Buffalo Castle or City of Terrors or Sword for Hire or the others. It was just so odd because of the almost dream-like nature of the stuff that happened to you and also because you couldn't really rely on "Take that you Fiend"'ing everyone you met into submission ("Take that you Fiend" was the standard 1st level wizards offensive spell - sort of like the Magic Missile spell in Dungeons & Dragons). You basically had to read the paragraph describing the situation your character was in and decide which spell among your battery of magiques was appropriate to the situation. I think I'd probably appreciate it more right now... but for a 10-year old, it was all a little bit too strange, although it DID (as the author intended) fill the much-needed niche for a solitaire adventure intended solely for wizards.

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