Monday, 16 November 2009

The Mines of Malagus

With all (virtual) copies of PROTEUS now in my possession I've started playing #2 The Mines of Malagus and doing it properly - all dice rolling religiously accepted and no cheating. It's a lot harder than it looks. So far I'm down 5 Adventurers although one of those I abandoned to his fate when I realised my mapping had gone wrong somewhere. Admittedly three of those adventurers were cursed from birth with rolling a 1 for their SKILL modifier. RIP Treson, Lucida, Estima and Sir Ruf - Treson the Younger I hope you find your way out someday. Sorry mate.

Malagus was the first issue I had and back in the day I just got lost and never got anywhere with it to my great frustration. It's actually quite a cleverly-structured adventure and does something novel with the "numbered paragraph" format.

The scenario itself is a simple "locate three geegaws in the maze" with a bit of plot armour meaning that you must get three in one expedition (otherwise the geegaws, pieces of some talismanic gravestone that has to be recovered for some vague reason, teleport back to their hiding places). So far nothing too special.

However, Malagus has an extremely clever design to allow you to not only wander around freely in some areas retracing your steps but also to allow you to not realise you are doing this with obvious and sneaky effects upon your mapping.

Here's what it does. If you stand at a N-S-W junction at paragraph 25 (with the W passage being described to you as "on your left" as you travelled north) you could go north to 180. You'd assume that travelling south from 180 takes you back to 25. But it doesn't. Going south will take you to another paragraph entirely (let's say 77) that describes the same place but from a different angle of approach - so that now, the gamebook describes a T-junction with a branch going off to your right. North from 77 will go to 180 again (because it's the same direction of approach) but South could go to 103 which is not the paragraph you entered 25 from if you came northwards from the south.

Clever stuff. It gives you the freedom to wander around some places and invites you to get lost because you don't neccesarily immediately make the mental connection to realise you have been here before.

Once I started mapping the place out and trying to discover the correct route I started to appreciate the cleverness of the design. Some areas of the dungeon are "timeless" - meaning nothing the adventurer can do will change anything and these areas are the confusing and sneaky maze puzzle. Other areas can change and then do the usual pushing forwards of the player so that they can't return. The west area of the Mines (the area I have started mapping out) introduces the player to the maze area with an immediate monster fight. Since the player will win the fight or end the game, the gamebook is safe to have a later paragraph describing the discovery of the bodies - since if the player returns here the monsters must be dead. Monsters dead or GAME OVER PLAYER ONE - there are no alternate outcomes here. In fact as I type this I realise that this rediscovering of the bodies is intended as a big hint at the free roaming nature of the place and the potential to get lost. An option to retreat to a place before the fight isn't given so continuity is preserved. At the exit of this free roaming section is another fight to the player is funneled off into a new section. This is another maze and on the way in, the player steps over a tripwire trap without setting it off. Suffice to say any attempt to return causes the player to stumble into this trap with lethal consequences.

The design has really impressed me. If the scenario wasn't so hackneyed this would be a real classic.

Anyway, next up, Sacrifical Pawn-cum-Adventurer number 6. He/she might have to be drowned in a bucket at birth if that SKILL die comes up 1 again.

1 comment:

  1. Man, you just inspired me to dig out my one issue of Proteus (this one funnily enough) and two Warlock mags. Cheers!