Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Citadel of Chaos, Attempt 1, Part 1

It's time now to move on to the second book in the Fighting Fantasy series: The Citadel of Chaos by Steve Jackson.  Whereas in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain the protagonist is motivated by nothing more than sheer greed, The Citadel of Chaos provides a slightly more altruistic motivation.  The evil demi-sorcerer Balthus Dire is planning to invade the Vale of Willow with his armies, and you must sneak into his stronghold and deal with him.  I did say slightly more altruistic; this is an assassination mission, after all.

The rules for determining Skill, Stamina and Luck remain unchanged from the first book.  I rolled a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 15 and a Luck of 11, a decent set of scores despite the low Stamina.  Where The Citadel of Chaos really differs is that the reader plays a wizard.  The star pupil of the Grand Wizard of Yore, in fact.  I had to determine my Magic score by rolling two dice and adding 6.  My result was 12; this is the number of spells I was allowed to take with me on my mission.

The following spells are available: Creature Copy, E.S.P., Fire, Fool's Gold, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Shielding, Skill, Stamina, Strength and Weakness.  I took two Creature Copy spells, two Shielding spells, and one each of E.S.P., Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina, Strength and Weakness.  Most of the spells are pretty self-explanatory.  Creature Copy is probably the only one that requires a bit of explanation: it creates an exact duplicate of a creature that can fight on your behalf.

For equipment I had the basics: a sword, leather armour, a backpack and a lantern. I had no provisions with which to restore Stamina, but that's what the Stamina spell listed above is for.  Similarly, I didn't get to choose a restorative potion, either; just as with Stamina, there are spells to restore Luck and Skill.

And so, armed and armoured, and brimming with eldritch power, I set forth to Craggen Rock to slay me a wizard.

The first encounter set the tone for Balthus Dire's citadel pretty early.  Meet the guardians of the gate: the DOG-APE and the APE-DOG.

There is something sublime about the pointlessness of these two.  Eschewing all basic assassination methods, I sauntered up to the front gate and opted to pose as a travelling herbalist, here to tend to a sick guardsman of the citadel.  My cover story was watertight; I even had some random weeds to wave under the Ape-Dog's nose, but the guards were skeptical and asked me who I was here to treat.  At this point I was given the option of three names, which must all be the Orc equivalent of John or Tom or something: Kylltrog, Pincus or Blag.  I opted for the raddest-sounding name, which was Kylltrog, and the Ape-Dog let me inside the citadel.  Word to the wise: never trust an ape/dog hybrid with security.

I entered a large courtyard, and again decided to bring as much attention to myself as possible.  Spying a motley group sitting around a campfire - the group was comprised of a Dwarf, an Orc and two canoodling Goblins - I sat down with them and demanded they tell me how to get inside the citadel proper.

My brash swagger must have impressed them, because the Orc gave me the password to get inside the citadel proper: 'Scimitar'.  But when I started pestering them about a potion they possessed they got very surly and attacked me.  Three-on-one odds would be pretty tough for a first encounter, but luckily for me they decided to fight me one at a time, and I slaughtered them with little difficulty.  When the fight ended I prepared to run, expecting the sounds of alarms or approaching guards or something.  Nada.  Time then for looting!

These guys had 8 gold pieces, a copper key and a jar of ointment.  For reasons known only to Steve Jackson I was only able to take two of these, and i opted to leave the gold behind. There was also the potion that started this whole scuffle, which turned out to be a Potion of Magik.  It was good for two doses, and had the effect of letting me use a spell without crossing it off my list.  Sweet!

I could see two men talking nearby, so I approached them.  They were haggling quite vehemently about the price of a magic dagger.  The seller tried to rope me in by asking how much I thought it was worth.  Putting on my best "I know what I'm talking about" face, I high-balled the price at 10 gold pieces.  The buyer couldn't afford it, and neither could I, so everyone left unsatisfied.

Moving on, I was accosted by some weird lady air elemental.  I tried to ignore her, which just made her angry, so I told her heartily to piss off.  Apparently she likes seeing people get angry, because we then enjoyed a semi-romantic stroll before she buggered off to annoy someone else.

I reached the main door into the citadel, and knocked for the guard.  I was greeted by another fine specimen of Dire's eugenics program: a RHINO-MAN!  Luckily I knew the password, and the Rhino-Man let me inside.  Once again lax security rules the day here in the Citadel of Chaos.

Ignoring some steps downwards (on the spurious logic that Balthus Dire wouldn't be living underground) I went through a door and rang the bell to summon the butler.

This is not a man that I would put at my reception desk, but despite all appearances to the contrary he was rather polite when I confidently asked the way to the reception room.  I followed his directions without hesitation; surely he's a trustwothy guy, yeah?

At the end of the passage I followed there was a door, and inside a large Goblin-like creature was asleep.  I tried to sneak past, because dude was using his axe as a pillow.  I did not want to mess with a dude bad-ass enough to sleep on his axe, but unfortunately the GARK woke up.  Apparently Garks are goblin-giant crossbreeds, which hardly bears thinking about, especially as this one was advancing on me with his axe/pillow.

 Thinking fast, I hit the Gark with a Weakness spell (quaffing a dose from my Potion of Magik in order to retain the spell for later).  The spell hit it hard, and I was able to slay the enfeebled Gark with ease.  On its person I found 6 gold pieces and an ornate hairbrush.  At first the brush seemed a little incongruous, but then I remembered that the Gark slept on his axe, which has to seriously mess up his hair.

There were two doors leading out of the room, and I chose the one that lead to the library.  In the library I had the choice of three books to read: 'Biographies of Balthus Dire', 'Secrets of the Black Tower' or 'Creatures of the Kingdom of Craggen Rock'.  All of these sounded like essential reading, but I opted for a spot of research on the Black Tower.  I was rewarded with a whole bunch of information: apparently Balthus Dire's grandpa had built the citadel, and was later forced to  fill his tower with traps to protect himself from the evil monsters that moved in.  He also had a door with a combination lock, the code to which was 217.  Surely Balthus Dire would have changed that by now, though.

I decided to read a second book, choosing 'Biographies of Balthus Dire'.  I learned that Dire was third in a line of powerful sorcerers, and now ruled with his wife Lucretia.  (Lucretia Dire.  Really sounds like a character from a Harry Potter novel.)  Most importantly, the book contained the information that the Dire family's power only lasts at night-time, and sunlight is a poison to them.  Man, Balthus Dire really needs to keep tabs on the books in his library.  Dude is sloppy on security issues.

Feeling lucky, I decided to read a third book, but my fortune had run out.  A bunch of Orcs burst into the room, and one of them knocked me out with a blast of bad breath.

I awoke in a cell, where a two-headed lizard man was bringing me some dinner.

The creature was a CALACORM, but I ignored it while I scoffed my food.  When my hunger was sated I tried to talk to my jailer, only to be told that I would probably never be released unless it was as sport for the Ganjees.  Ganjees, eh?  They don't sound so tough.

I decided to cast a spell, going with an Illusion to make him think he's being attacked.  (I quaffed the final dose of my Potion of Magik to retain the spell.)  The illusion that appears is that of a mouse, which at first seemed like a complete failure.  But the Calacorm climbed on his chair like the black woman in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.  I offered to get rid of the mouse if he released me, which he did, and I strolled nonchalantly out of the room.

Soon I came to a door, which I busted open with my bare hands.  Inside was a little sleeping man in green pantaloons, hovering over a table.

But before I could react, a small projectile was fired at me from a catapult.  With a surplus of Stamina points I decided not to use a spell, and the missile splattered on my forehead; it was a tomato!  After that bit of nonsense I was unsurprised to discover that the little fellow was a leprechaun name O'Seamus.  I shook his hand in greeting, only to get an electric shock and the loss of 1 Skill point.  I'd had a gut-full by this point, but the leprechaun obviously had powers beyond mine, so I just sighed and asked him the way onwards.  His answer was cryptic, and little help in figuring out which of the three doors ahead I ought to take.  I picked the bronze-handled door and left the little bastard far behind.

In the room beyond I was blinded by a sudden flash of light.  Some growling creature latched onto my leg with its jaws, and I lashed out with my sword.  For some reason I couldn't hit it, and it tore my leg open with its teeth.  I had the option to cast a spell, but... why was I not losing Stamina points from that wound?  I held my spell in reserve, but to my horror the creature lunged forward and tore out my throat.  My adventure ends here.

But wait, I'm alive!  It was all a practical joke perpetrated by O'Seamus, who was laughing his guts out.  I started laughing as well, but you can rest assured; I was only laughing on the outside.  O'Seamus was fooled into thinking of me as a good sport, and rewarded me with a mirror and an Enchanted Battlesword which would add 1 to my Attack Strength in battle.  Good show O'Seamus, it makes up for the electric shock you gave me.

I left once more, this time choosing the copper-handled door.  I emerged in a wine cellar, where I was met by a limping BLACK ELF.  No, not a Dark Elf, a BLACK ELF.

I pretended to be a guest here to sample some wine, and was offered a choice of three vintages.  I chose the red wine, and just as in real life it restored 2 Stamina points and 3 Luck.  Thanking the Elf, I left.

Further up the passage was a door, which I opened quietly.  Inside was a bit of Flintstones decor: a stone table, and three  chests resting on a pile of rocks stuck together with mud.  Guarding the whole mess was a man made of stone.

The siren song of the chests called to me, but as I neared them the stone man stirred to life.  A GOLEM!  I whipped my sword out to fight it, but it was far from the most effective weapon against a stone man, and I suffered a -1 Skill penalty for the fight.  This left me with a Skill of 8, equal to the Golem's own, and the resulting battle was a desperate one.  It battered mr down to 5 Stamina before I destroyed it, but at least now the chests were mine!  What bounty lay inside?  Before finding out I cast a spell to restore my Stamina to 12.

I opened the first chest, and found a silver key.  Nice!  The second chest was locked, so I tried the key and it opened.  Inside was a green key.  I see where this is going, Jackson...  I unlocked the third chest with the green key, and found inside a glass jar containing a spider with the face of an old man.  Weird.  Someone obviously went to a lot of effort to lock this monstrosity away, so I put the jar in my pack instead of opening it.

The next door opened into a large, brightly lit dining hall, with lots of entrances.  This seems like a good point to stop for the moment.  My assassination mission will continue in the next post!

(All illustrations courtesy of  Go there!)

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