Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Certain Horrors That Were Not Told Unto the Young

There's not much of a story to how I acquired K. Martin Aul's Beyond the Wall of Tears, the eighteenth of the 'official' Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures. It was part of a batch that someone was selling on eBay, and I made a successful bid. I had a quick look through it when they arrived, but as it was only one of several new acquisitions, it didn't get my full attention. This will be the first time I've properly played it.

Like Gamesmen of Kasar, the adventure has been designed to be playable by characters of any level (and this one is actually even more wide-ranging in its scope, as it lacks Gamesmen's ban on playing ungulates (not that I'd planned to do so, but in Wall I could if I wanted to)). If this adventure uses similar means to the preceding one to tailor the encounters to the characters, I might actually be better off with some low rolls this time round. So what do I get?
Strength: 17
Intelligence: 9
Luck: 12
Constitution: 12
Dexterity: 7
Charisma: 10
Speed: 8
A better character, and as the rules are using a different approach, that's probably no bad thing. Obviously a warrior, as a double-figure Intelligence is required for all magic-using classes.

There are many parts of the world where people live close to some potential threat, whether the danger be environmental or of human manufacture. My character is in a similar situation, though on a different world, where the border between night and day is a fixed location, and is far more than just the periphery of the part of the planet facing the sun. The precise nature of the border is unclear: at least some of the region beyond it can only be visited in dreams, and yet assorted denizens of that realm have made a physical incursion into day territory and abducted my little sister.

In order to fetch her back before prolonged exposure to David Bowie can have its effect, I must enter the nightmare lands by performing the ritual known as Dreamwalking. Many of the foes and dangers that confront me on my quest will be conjured up by my own mind, so I'm rather glad that Mr. Aul won't have had any access to the sort of stuff that infested the dreams of my real-world self at around the time Wall was being written. That molten-faced newspaper salesman involved in the theft of the mummy from my grandparents' china cabinet is not an opponent I will ever be ready to confront.

To aid me in my quest, the village wizard provides me with two ceremonial weapons: the sword 'Dreamreaver' and the dirk 'Nightmar'. If I'd been a magic user myself, he would instead have let me take the magic staff that some wit named 'Nightstick'. Suitably equipped, I go to bed in my armour (not very comfortable, but I'm not doing this just for the sake of a restful snooze) and drink the potion that sends me into the Dreamwalking trance.

Next thing, I'm in front of the Wall of Tears, which is actually made of stone, and gets its name from the people who mourn all the adventurers who never came back from beyond it. Part of the wall disappears to let me through, and I set off along a road I can tell to be long and winding in spite of the dense forest that borders it on both sides. The light of the moons shines down on it, and I see eyes gleaming in among the trees.

Cue stock BBC 'jungle noises' FX.

Should I light a torch to deter predators (assuming that all my equipment accompanied me into the dream)? Might as well see if it's possible. Theoretically, it is, but the wind and the damp require me to make a couple of Saving Rolls to succeed. The difficulty-tailoring measures make my Luck roll as difficult as the Dexterity one, but even if both rolls had been at the same level, I'd still have failed the Luck one. So I'm stuck in the dark, but I did at least get a little Experience for my unsuccessful attempt at providing illumination.

The denizens of the forest have yet to come out, but in the dim moonslight I frequently trip on the uneven road surface, making a fair bit of noise. I have the option of making camp, but I don't know if delaying is a good thing, nor can I be certain that it ever gets lighter around here. Besides, if I make camp, I might doze off, and I'd rather not risk Inception-esque shenanigans. A more successful Luck roll has me avoiding some unspecified unpleasantness, and it does get lighter as time passes.

After a while I see a side road, and there's a bit of cloth snagged on one of the bushes lining it. Could be from my sister's cloak, so I take the turning, which leads to some kind of settlement. Moving closer, I discover that it houses Orcs, when three of them charge at me with bludgeons. This looks like a fight I might be able to win, if I attack. Might it be worth trying to talk, though? I'll give it a try, and hope that if it doesn't work out, fighting conditions are the same as they would be for a straightforward assault. And the roll to see how they respond is based on my Intelligence, not Charisma. Not that the one-point difference matters, given how low I roll. But failure leads to the same section as surrendering to the Orcs on sight rather than the one for fighting, so this could be nasty. Yep, the Orcs decide to have me for dinner. As the main course, not a guest, in case it needed spelling out.

Just out of curiosity, I played out how the fight would have gone if I hadn't tried talking. Unclear wording about the potential for being surrounded adds an element of uncertainty, but if it means that I'd have got no protection from armour, the Orcs would have died in 3 rounds. If it means I'd have taken damage even when not losing a round, I'd have been gutted pretty much instantaneously unless I managed some very fluky Dexterity rolls.


  1. The way you have managed to beat only one of the fifteen T&T adventures you've tried so far is both hilarious and astounding. How did they manage to fail so much the "game" part of their gamebooks?

    1. It becomes that bit more impressive when you figure in the fact that I didn't make it beyond the very first encounter in over half of those adventures.