Catacombs Solo Quest
Blashfield, Jean (F.)
Ward, James M.
Valusek, Valerie A. (interior)
0880384492 / 9780880384490
157 pages |
I finally got my hands on this module and, well, it's disappointing to say the least.
This was one another attempt of TSR in the solo-role playing genre. It's a kind of mosaic of elements from other gamebooks, none of which mesh well.
The format of the book is similar to the Tunnels and Trolls series in that it has about 150 pages and you are directed to turn to specific paragraphs on those pages designated as 23E or 145J and so forth. So right off the bat it has two of my pet peeves: lots of random page flipping and short, meatless paragraphs. It also carries some of the irreverent humor similar to Tunnels and Trolls, in which you can pointlessly meet William Shakespeare, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, etc. A frog tricks you into kissing it by pretending to be a princess. Humor attempts like this always make me feel the writers are showing contempt for the whole genre.
It has a fairly straightforward combat system. At the start you are offered to be either a Chariot rider/fighter or a bard. And throughout the adventure, they keep asking you which you chose to an annoying degree.
The plot involves you entering a fairy mound and going on random quests to bring back items for the fairie king and queen (who don't like each other). So it is a quest to find the right items to an unthinkable degree, almost like Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy on speed. You collect literally hundreds of items, most of which have laughable names, like the Ring of Troll indifference, or the Shield of Rat summoning, and so on.
To its credit, the book features an incredible degree of monsters. Those you'd expect like Sylphs, nymphs, leprechauns, and so on, but also amazingly obscure ones like an annis, a spriggan, quicklings, duergars, and so on, which had me digging deep in my monster manuals.
It tries to be different by putting a big emphasis on the artwork. In many sections you are supposed to study the pictures then are offered a dozen choices on which character to approach. It feels like an attempt to make the art purposeful. Many of the pictures are of scantily clad faeries (as well as the Clive Caldwell cover) and I wonder if the idea was to sex things up. If so, they really needed to spice up the writing more, because none of the encounters result in more than a kiss.
It tries to incorporate different elements. There are tables of random beneficial and maleficent results, similar to the dreamtime found in the Grailquest books. And an odd feature is that you should put an elf bookmark randomly in some pages. When you are directed to whichever page the bookmark falls, you have a random encounter with an elf which could be friendly or not. It's a kind of attempt to add wandering monsters, but the elf encounters bring the story to a screeching halt.
Overall, I'm just not sure what they were going for with this one. Can't recommend it. That said, it has a whole lot of content with a different type of scenario, so maybe it's just me.
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