Défis et Sortilèges

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The Défis & Sortilèges series was published in France by Éditions Gallimard. It can be divided into two distinct sets of books: books 1 to 4 and book 5 to 8. Each set is somewhat different; the information here refers to the first set. Each book enables you to play a distinct character: Caïthness the Elementalist, Keldrilh the Minstrel, Sire Péreim the Knight and Kandjar the Wizard. You can play alone or with friends. The rules for both styles are described here.

Basic Rules

Each character comes with its stats precreated; you don't roll dice to determine Skill, Stamina or whatever. With each character come strengths and weaknesses which you'll have to carefully understand to be efficient in combat. There are four characteristics: Initiative (which means the same in French as in English), Combat (Fighting, or Skill if you prefer), Magie (Magic), Aura (Charisma) and Vitalité (Hit Points).

Initiative is used to determine who strikes first in a fight. If you cast a spell, you must use the Initiative score associated with it; some spells are cast very quickly and other are slower. Combat is used to determine whether your blow lands or not. You roll three dice and if the score is lower than Combat, then you hit. Magic works the same way as Combat. When you cast a spell, you roll three dice, add the level of the spell (from 1 to 5), and if the total is lower than your Magic score, the spell is successfully cast. There aren't any magic points, but you can't cast the same spell twice in a fight, or twice in a "game turn" (explained below in the multi-player part). As for Aura, it represents your Charisma (both your physical beauty and your skill at Diplomacy). It's not used at all in the solitaire game; it only applies in a multi-player game. The use of Vitalité is rather obvious. When you take damage, you add Wound Points. If you have more wound points than hit points, you're dead.

The character sheet features four icons portraying an open hand, a fox face, an eye and a lightning bolt. These relate to one of the most interesting features of this series. At some point during the adventure, you'll see this sentence "Choix du livre des héros numéro 5" (Choose from the book of heroes number 5). At the end of the book there is a special "book of heroes," divided into four parts (one for each icon) and with sixteen reference in each part. When you have this choice, you must choose your attitude for the encounter; the open hand is friendly, the fox face is cunning, the eye is careful, and the lightning bolt is aggressive. You then read the appropriate numbered section in the appropriate part of the book of heroes.

When you make one of these special choices, you gain a "Point de Pouvoir" (Power Point), which you mark in a box on the character sheet under the relevant icon. These points allow you to obtain new spells and to reach certain parts of the book that require expenditure of Power Points to proceed. This rule is enjoyable because you can play the character as you wish without being forced to act as a do-gooder all the time. If you want to be aggressive all the time, you can. Obtaining several points of the same attitude has a use in the game. With Power Points come new powers. They almost always require either a number of Power Points (6 to 13) or a number of points from a particular attitude.

For example, some healing spells require either 6 PP or 3 Friendly Points. Most offensive spells are expensive (12 points) but can be easily gained with 6 aggressive points. You should realize that you can't have more than 16 points (the number of references in the book of heroes). Thus, having 12 or 13 points is difficult. It adds some strategy to the book, and it's a very good idea.

The rest of the character sheet is rather traditional: weapon, magic items, spells. You don't use any money in this series, however, and don't need to eat.

Exploration Rules

Each character plays in the same world but is looking for something different. There's a map showing roads between the locations. For example, if you want to go from the lake to Selartz (a city), you take the roads, decide whether you want to explore a location or not, and then reach Selartz. Next to your character sheet is a page listing all of the locations of the book with a reference number and a check box. When you're able to explore Selartz, you check this page and go to the reference. However, some locations on this page don't appear on the map. That's because some of them are hidden or are part of another location (Selartz contains several smaller locations).

When you finish exploring a location, you often see this text: "Fin d'Exploration" (End of Exploration). This means that you must check the box next to the location you visited, indicating that you'll never be able to go there again. This will prevent you from going several times to the same place and repeating an easy "book of heroes choice." This would allow you to unfairly gain Power Points, which would be unfair. In the multi-player game, it is sometimes possible to encounter the phrase "Fin d'exploration pour tous" (End of Exploration for all). When this happens, nobody will be able to go to that place, and everyone must check the box corresponding to it.

Don't worry about being unable to go back to a place you visited. There is never anything important left to find in a closed location unless you made very poor choices, which almost never happens.

Multi-Player Rules

In a multi-player game, the character with the highest initiative plays first (since the Initiative score never changes, it's always the same character who acts first). That player reads the current reference. If the number is printed without dashes ("61"), it has to be read aloud. If it's printed with dashes ("-61-") it must be read in secret.

The basic pattern of play is "read one reference, choose your path, and wait for the next player to read" (this is called "un tour de jeu" (Game Turn). Players must always declare their locations, since two characters aren't allowed to be in the same place at the same time. If that happens, you have three choices: the newly arrived character can go somewhere else, the two characters can fight, or the two characters can team up.

There are very strict rules for alliances. The player whose Power and Aura added up to greatest total is the leader. The other members close their books and follow the leader. This is why some spells improves your Aura (Caïthness, for example, has several of them). You can break an alliance whenever you want. If an alliance wins the game, all of its members win.

When it's your turn to play and you're on the map, you have several options:

Move: you go to another location, following a road and then stopping.

Rest: heal 10 Wound Points

Explore: go to the reference of the place where you are currently located
Frederic's General Comments

There's something important you should keep in mind when reading my reviews. I played the books in order. Thus, I had experience from Caïthness when playing Keldrilh. Even if the locations don't offer exactly the same encounters, I knew that some places were more dangerous and carefully avoided them until I was strong enough. If you plan to play the four books, choose your favorite character first. After a book or two, you'll get used to the game and won't enjoy the later books as much as the first ones.

The information and reviews on this page were provided by Frederic Martinoty. More reviews will be added as Frederic finds time to write them. If you have any comments or corrections, please let me know by e-mailing me at demiankatz@gmail.com.

 1. Caïthness l'Elémentaliste
Literal Translation of French Title: Caïthness the Elementalist
Author: Gildas Sagot
Illustrator: Bruno Pilorget
First Published: September, 1988
ISBN: 2-07-033503-8
Length: 190 pages (199 main sections plus four sets of 16 special sections)
Number of Endings: 6
Plot Summary: Caïthness is a human woman raised in the Fey Realm. She wants to know who her parents are, and thus she goes to Dorgan (the realm where the book takes place) to find information about them. She's described as a beautiful woman (Aura: 16), with good magic abilities (Magic: 14), average reflexes (Initiative: 12) and poor fighting abilities (Combat: 9). She has a dagger (damage 1 die) and the book of elements, containing her spells.
Translation: Italian
My Thoughts: This book has long held my interest because of its multiple sets of numbered sections and intriguingly lengthy rules. Now that Frederic has been kind enough to describe it in detail, I regret even more that I am unable to read it; it sounds like it features a very clever system.
Frederic Martinoty's Thoughts:

The first thought that occurred to me when looking at Caïthness' stats was "I should avoid fighting!" To hit, I must roll less than nine on three dice, and all of this to inflict one lousy die worth of damage. Caïthness doesn't have any offensive spells when she starts; she can only reduce the Combat and Initiative scores of her opponent, and only once per fight (if the spell even succeeds).

During the adventure, I lost almost all the fights I was involved in. Hopefully, they aren't numerous.

The first time I played, I enjoyed wandering in this world, visiting Selartz or Kandaroth, traveling on the "Voie des Bâtisseurs" (Road of the Builders), and so on. From time to time, I was in locations where I needed to have 5 or 6 Power Points to go any further. I thought "Hmmm, those places must be useful, I'll get back later." Then I died in a fight.

Next try, I went to places I knew of to gain some Power Points and visited the places I hadn't been able to get into. I grew stronger, and found a place where I needed 10 Power Points. "Hmmm, that must be the ultimate place where I'll win." I carefully collected my Power Points, met the ultimate villain, examined his stats and exclaimed "WHAT?!?!!?"

A round later, I was bathing in my own blood and wondering how I could possibly win.

I won. I won't explain how; it's possible but very tough. My guess is that the ultimate opponent can easily match an alliance of several players.

This book is very interesting. I liked the idea of playing a given character, of choosing the attitude I wanted during the encounters, and the pleasurable freedom to wander in this adventure. The book is non-linear, and it's a good thing. The problem is that it's rather short. You never have more than two choices (unless it's a choice from the book of heroes). Still, it's a fun adventure.

2. Keldrilh le Ménestrel

3. Péreim le Chevalier

4. Kandjar le Magicien

5. Les Heritiers de Dorgan
This book is not part of my collection.

6. Le Sanctuaire des Horlas
This book is not part of my collection.

7. La Huitiéme Porte

8. L'Ultime Réincarnation

Italian Translations

The first four books in the series were released in Italian as the "Partita a quattro" series.

1. Caithness l'elementalista
Translation Of:
Caïthness l'Elémentaliste
This book is not part of my collection.

2. Keldrilh il menestrello
This book is not part of my collection.

3. Pereim il cavaliere
This book is not part of my collection.

4. Kandjar il mago
This book is not part of my collection.

Demian's Gamebook Web Page (c) 1998-2003 Demian Katz
Most material on this page (c) 2002-2003 Frederic Martinoty