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Sea of Mystery

Series: Tunnels and Trolls #14
Platform: Adobe Acrobat
Translated Into: Meer der Rätsel (German)
Author: Rahman, Glenn (Arthur)
Illustrators: Macklin, Ken (cover)
Barnes, John (interior)
Release Dates: 1981
February 23, 2008 (eBook)
castiglione's Thoughts: Sea of Mystery was written by G. Arthur Rahman, the designer of many wargames such as Divine Right and Trojan War. The version I have has a very abridged copy of the T & T rules (two pages) provided in the appendix, in much the same manner as in the Corgi Books versions of the T & T solitaire adventures, so the adventure can be played without having a copy of the rules.

In Sea of Mystery, one's character begins in a port and things progress from there. There is really no "plot" to speak of; the adventure is very free-form and one can exit the adventure whenever one is in port. In an effort to increase replayability of Sea of Mystery (which was always an issue with any paragraph-based solitaire adventure game), many of the events in the adventure are randomized, i.e. decisions will not necessarily result in the same things happening; this is nothing new - in at least two earlier adventures, the authors suggest one randomly make decisions based on a die roll once one has played the adventures so many times as to know what all the outcomes are.

Despite the very random way in which things happen in Sea of Mystery, I still enjoyed playing it, probably due to the variety of the adventures which can befall one's character - while playing the adventure, I had been bonked over the head and shanghai'ed, attempted to rescue a slave girl (and gotten skewered for my troubles), been shipwrecked and drowned, committed suicide after being marooned, been killed in battle and resurrected - as a woman (only to later die again... this time for good), been shot up with arrows by Amazons, chomped by a shark (this is, after all, an adventure at sea so one should expect at least one encounter with a shark) and had several run-ins with pirates (as would also be expected in a sea adventure)... and, of course, I've gotten laid (this being a Tunnels & Trolls adventure, some sexual content should be expected).

An interesting thing about Sea of Mystery is that, in many cases, the player does not really have that many decisions to make. In many cases, he is just "along for the ride" on a merchant ship or as part of a pirate crew. In other cases, which way the story branches is dependant on whether or not he makes a saving roll (or on the result of a roll of one six-sided die) rather than on the usual "go left, right or forward" type branching in the earlier T & T solitaire adventures. And where choices are to be made, in many cases, they are moral choices, i.e. do you help the Baroness to escape... or do you just leave her to her fate? Do you insist the old woman be rescued... or not speak up? Do you urge the captain to save the refugees... or leave them to their doom? In many ways, Sea of Mystery marked a paradigm shift from the earlier T & T solitaires (the solitaire published before Sea of Mystery was Sewers of Oblivion - a somewhat "traditional" dungeon crawl) in which the branching of the events took on more of a narrative structure and in which play shifted away from "kick the door down and skewer the orcs." I am not a big fan of "forcing the narrative" when it comes to solitaire adventures - I would rather that the narrative develop from the action that one takes. However, I did not mind so much in Sea of Mystery due to the variety of situations in which one could end up (and from which one would have to escape).

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