Talisman of Death – Conclusions

As far as story goes, Talisman of Death was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, it ripped along at a fair old pace and sent me through a pretty wide selection of scenarios. We started in the rift, travelled across the wilderness, explored a city, got hunted by demons, crashed a black-mass, went on a raid with thieves, crossed the wilderness again, a mini-dungeon crawl, a mountain climb, worked our way through jungle and then fought a dragon – it hardly gives you time to breathe! Whilst I did appreciate that this meant for very few dull moments, I did feel that maybe the book tries to do a bit too much. Some story directions I found more entertaining than others and I’d have liked to have spent longer on some locations or events than we did. For instance, I was very excited to combine City of Thieves-style street exploration with a cat-and-mouse chase between myself and the undead, only to then have the Talisman taken from me almost straight away. Ending this segment so soon was very disappointing, it was also disappointing to miss this memorable piece of art whilst being stalked through Greyguilds.

tod 007
During the latter stages of the book, I couldn’t help be reminded of Caverns of the Snow Witch in that it did seem to be a longer than average adventure, the journey out of Greyguilds to the mountain with Hawkana pursuing me in my dreams did drag a little compared to the rest of the book. Having commented on the length of the book, there were still plenty of choices I didn’t explore.

 

tod 026

My unexplored choices seems to have covered some of my favourite illustrations from the book, this elk-man thing looks particularly bad-ass in the sheeting rain…

 

tod 014

…this thing… I have no idea what the hell is going on here, it looks like something Kurt Russell should be burning alive…

tod 013

 

…I’m fairly sure this is the first (proper) boss from Demons’ Souls…

tod 006

…and this is the worlds derpiest looking triceratops.

tod 001

 

There’s also this great image of Smaug… I mean ‘the dragon’… having a snooze in his cave before we violently butchered him.

tod 024

I’ve been a bit critical of the book, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I read the whole thing in two short sittings and had many memorable encounters, particularly the excellent dragon battle finale. I just would have liked to see it expand upon its more interesting segments like infiltrating the evil cultists or solving the underground riddles of the ivory spear. A bit of a jack of all trades I guess that stops short of being excellent and ends up just being very good. It was pleasing to get a good ending, difficulty wise the book was pitched pretty well given how the book flows so easily, the main challenge coming from some of the combat as opposed to needing items or making hard decisions. Including restart points was a nice idea, but I imagine the majority of players have already got their very own checkpoints set by jamming fingers in pages, but legitimising it in the rules of the book will please some.

After Scorpion Swamp, I leave Talisman of Death with my faith restored in the non-Jackson/Livingstone books, I thought this one was in safe hands and overall I think my confidence was rewarded with a solid adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talisman of Death – Part 3

Back from the dead, we traipse along Trader’s Rows and down the storm drain again in search of the thieves guild who will hopefully help me steal back the Talisman of Death from evil hands. Only this time, I’m not going to catch a harpoon in the chest. For the cost of 2 Stamina the bolt glances off my shoulder and I make my way through the entrance to the Thieves Guild, a magnificently furnished room with some familiar faces from the Red Dragon lounging on sofas like a bunch of students in a common room. They leapt to their feet when I appeared, brandishing swords, but I deflected this aggression by calmly stating I had been invited. Not entirely believing me, I was soon speaking to their Guildmaster, a wonderfully moustached man known as Vagrant.

tod 015

 

To a stunned silence I made no attempt to hide my intentions and announced my desire to steal the Talisman of Death to the thieves. ‘We’ll mount an expedition before they move the Talisman’, said Vagrant suddenly – this was serious stuff now. He barked instructions at his crew and before I knew it, I was in a raiding party.

That evening I was led by the boys to the city roof-tops where we moved to a tall house, just below the top of the temple to Fell-Kyrinla. A hulking man named Bloodheart flung a grappling hook across and on the other side a slight man named Jemmy the Rat prised open a skylight and disarmed a poison dart trap, a quick descent down a rope and we were in. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone. An old servant, which in my mind I liken to the Butler in the Tomb Raider games, was shuffling along and although I couldn’t be sure he had seen us, I didn’t want to take the chance and knocked him out with my sword pommel. As I went to tie him up, one of the thieves stepped in and went to cut his throat. Call me a scumbag if you like, but I let him. For my sins I lost 1 Luck point, but I had earned us a clear route into the Inner Sanctum. Inside we found a raven haired woman praying at an altar, on top of which sat the Talisman of Death. ‘Hounds of hell! It’s Hawkana, the High Priestess!‘, shouted Jemmy the Rat, and within a blink of an eye, the thieves had all buggered off and left me there whilst Hawkana cast a spell, slamming the doors shut.

tod 016

 

Unhappy that I’d interrupted her chat with her goddess, Hawkana hit me for 3 Stamina points with a pillar of flame from the ceiling, I had however avoided the worst of it and now it’s my time to retaliate! Last time around I’d bought a Vial of Vapours of Speed and here I was about to get the big pay-off as I was given the chance to use it. I’m such a canny so-and-so, I got this covered. Or so would have been the case if the vial had contained anything more than the purest fresh air! I’d been scammed! Before I could act, Hawkana hit me again, this time a sword blow to the arm taking off 2 Stamina and then I was thrust into combat. With very strong stats indeed (12/14), I was pushed down to only 2 Stamina, my Skill of 10 meaning I had to take advantage of every hit I could muster with some good Luck rolls. First thing was to grab up the Talisman, gaining one of my lost Luck points back, however I noticed Hawkana starting to pick herself up from the pool of blood in which she lay. A ring on her hand glowed green as he wounds began to close, I swiped off what was a Ring of Regeneration and her resuscitation thankfully ceased and I regenerated 6 Stamina for myself. However, detached from Hawkanas magic, leaving the inner sanctum reduced the ring to a useless piece of metal. Regardless though, it was time to get the hell out of there, making for the roof-tops by which we entered. One thief, Bloodheart, disappointingly decided to try and quite literally stab me in the back but was taken down by a flurry of crossbow bolts fired by a group of pursuing warrior-women! I was able to manage the rest of my escape on my own without anyone having it in for me for once. This lasted for about 5 minutes.

tod 017

Remember Tyutchev and Cassandra? Well as soon as my feet hit the cobbled street from the roof-tops, there they were, waiting for me with a hideous squid creature hovering between them. Guys, please, gimme a break! The squid was called Thaum and he shifted shape into the man in flowing grey robes I saw earlier performing magic, whatever Thaum actually was, it was clearly a capable illusionist. A horrible looking troll with a hammer appeared, ‘Here is Harg‘, said Thaum. Harg swung his hammer at me, and I stood there unflinching only for Harg to vanish at the last second. Smiling, Thaum threw a fireball at me, which I decided was probably not as illusionary as I’d like, so I dived towards Tyutchev. In the spot I’d just been standing the fireball exploded, taking me for 3 Stamina and a bit of my clothing. Things got a bit out of hand from here on… Cassandra was upon me, Tyutchev had just been made invisible by Thaum and Thaum himself was probably about to fling more fireballs and conjure up some death-gnomes. It was time to turn to God for help. From a list of available Gods, I opted for the All-Mother, and in a stark contrast to real life, it worked!

tod 018

Plucked from the streets, I soared above my assailants in the talons of a great white eagle viewing a mountain in the distance, the voice of the All-Mother in my head, ‘That is Mount Star-reach, your goal. At the summit lies the portal that will take you back to your own world‘. My hope of being flown straight there was dashed as the eagle landed back in the city, presumably weighed down by the Talisman. Set down on Store Street, it was market day, so I knew the followers of the All-Mother would be on guard. I decided to lay low until nightfall, but naturally, that didn’t stop someone trying to hunt me down. This time a Dark Elf (8/8) tried to take me down but didn’t really slow me down, infact my pals in the All-Mothers watch were soon found and helped me through the gate and out of the city. One Luck point was mine, as well as a long walk up the side of a mountain.

After putting a few miles between myself and Greyguilds I took a rest and slept in a hayrack, 2 Stamina points restored. I hiked all day across the muddy plateau towards the mountain and before I knew it, night was falling again and I set up camp. In my sleep I had dreams of Hawkana in a funeral robe, her wounds still bleeding. She beckoned me in towards the Valley of Death. I woke shaken and drained, 2 Stamina points lost. Easy come, easy go. Looking a little bit Wuthering Heights-ish here is old Hawkana…

tod 019

 

The following night however, she caught up with me. In my sleep she drew me in and I was trapped in the spirit world, fighting her for a second time. Significantly weakened though at 10/12, she was a much more manageable opponent and she was defeated. All Stamina lost in the fight was restored when I woke. Hoping that would be the last time this frizzy witch would bother me, I trudged onwards.

A large shadow began to form on the ground beneath me, it looked like a bird. A big bird. Looking up, it was indeed a bird, only it didn’t look quite as friendly as the one sent by the All-Mother.

tod 020

 

Luckily though, as I ducked down to fight, it flashed overhead and missed me completely and then became distracted by a wild horse, which it flew off with in it’s talons. Eventually, I came to the base of the mountain, red-stone cliffs stood before me with a flight of stairs cut into the rock. A refreshing waterfall was a more inviting proposition at this point though, so I rested there for a while. Naturally, behind a waterfall needs to be checked to see if there are secrets and I found a hidden cave. Managing to light a damp torch, I explored the back of the cave and discovered a black wooden door, a centre panel depicting a red dragon spitting flame and an ivory spear. The doorway creaked open into a musty passageway that led onto a cross-road where I went straight-ahead.

Stepping into a circular room of bare rock I could see a small pillar in the centre, on closer inspection it bore the words -

‘Behind the symbol on the first door,
lies that which you risk your life for.’

Presumably this was pretty important as after I finished reading, the ceiling cracked open, pouring in water and a slab of rock started to close up my exit! A successful Skill test was needed to get me through the quickly narrowing gap. Through the door and further down the corridor was a large iron door, written upon which was, ‘Only one can be read‘. Inside were more stone pillars, circular, rectangular and square. Only allowed to read one I guess, so I went for the rectangular one -

‘Put yourself in the place of the monkey.
To the left is danger; the idle shall act.’

I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb here when I say I think I might have to make key decisions soon. I moved onward.

tod 021

And here it is! Damolh, son of the God Nil, Mouth of the Void stood before me in statue form before four doors. Now my first clue hinted that the first door was was bad (I’m risking my life for the Talisman of Death), the second clue suggested the same, that left of the monkey was dangerous, so being at a bit of a loss, I went for the Dragon as we’d already seen the image of one on the entrance to these caves. Inside was a crypt of some sort, a sarcophagus sat at the end just begging to be opened up!

tod 022

The front door of the caverns helped me make my mind up again here as I was given the option of taking one of the weapons held by the inhabitant of the sarcophagus, an ivory spear was depicted, so that was what I made off with. Am I gonna be killing a dragon with this by any chance? Oh look at that, the spear had the word ‘Dragonsbane’ carved into the shaft… Who’d have guessed! An obligatory encounter followed as it goes almost without saying that the ex-owner of the spear came to life and offered a modest, if brief, challenge at 8/10. Noticing the base of the sarcophagus was hollow, I followed that route forward, a shaft of daylight leading me back out onto the mountain, some way above the roaring waterfall.

Avoiding crashing rocks as I climbed higher, the environment began to change as I entered a more humid, almost tropical region. I always thought it got colder as you went higher, but what do I know? In this new rainforest location, my clothes clung with perspiration and before I could gain my bearings I was besieged by wild Hogmen, I tried to help them understand I meant no harm. Genius that I am, I offered them some of my provisions, turns out though that they didn’t particularly want to eat salted pork! They took the to see their leader…

tod 023

I was honest about my predicament and it seemed to do the trick, the Hoglord (what an awesome name!) said we could help each other out. My route to the portals on top of the mountain was blocked by an ancient Red Dragon that had been destroying the villages of the Hogpeople, if it happened to die, nobody would miss it. Any man who attempted to fight the beast would certainly be roasted by it’s flaming breath though and the only way to combat this was to fashion a shield from some of the beasts scales, Hoglord gave me Gum of the Amber Pine with which to do just this. We dined on guavas, mangoes and nuts for 2 Stamina points and I bid them farewell as I headed towards the sulphur-scented dragons lair atop the mountain.

Maneouvering by torch-light along a large, smooth-walled tunnel, the smell of sulphur continued to fill my nostrils. To the side I could see a narrow passage though and decided a more concealed route was the clever option. Good choice too as I had managed to sneak up on a sleeping dragon! The cavern had opened up massively and the 18-metre long beast lay snoozing on a pile of treasure, some of it’s scales were also littered around the floor and so I snatched up a few for my secret weapon.

Sneaking ahead, I left the caverns, shield nicely glued together and in the distance I could see the portal! Before I could get too enthusiastic about skipping the dragon altogether, a rush of wind preceded the red dragon landing next to it, ‘I am bound by the Gods to guard the portal’, it said.

tod 005

No point wasting time chatting though, I plunged straight into an attack, my shield doing its job against the blasts of fire sent my way, my Skill helping me avoid a swipe of claws and my spear helping me to maximise my damage, increasing my output to 5 Stamina damage per hit, a necessary boost as the dragon was obviously very powerful (12/20). On reducing the dragon to 5 Stamina though, the creature turned into an old man, begging me to spare him, claiming that he had been cursed to take the form of a dragon until he was beaten in combat. Not buying it for a second I jammed my spear into him, blood spurting from his fatal wound before he proved my point by reverting into his normal form of a dragon.

With a prayer to the All-Mother, I stepped through the portal, the Talisman heavy at my chest. All went dark and then I was within a circle of stones, I had found my way back to Earth. As I left Orb a hero, the two beings who summoned me, Time and Fate, left me with the words – ‘We may call upon you again!’.

My adventure was over.

Talisman of Death – Part 2

Through the gates of Greyguilds we went, still alive after most of the inhabitants of Orb seem to be out to kill us. Does anyone actually know I have the talisman on me or are they all just being dicks? My paranoia that everyone is out to get me will have to be shelved for now though as the city must be explored for a way to get back to Earth, the streets were busy with shoppers and young people carrying books and scrolls, it was time to get stuck in. I was currently on Moorgate and opted to go down Store Street instead of Smith Street. Walking down the crowded street, a woman in a plain green robe caught my eye as she was looking straight at me. Before I could assess things further she had crossed the street and was asking me who I was and where I was from, believing I was new to the city. On learning the truth, that I had crossed the wilderness, she asked if I had met an old man dressed similarly to herself? Obviously I hadn’t, but I decided to lie and took a guess at his name, a lucky guess too as Wodeman was exactly right. Delighted, she revealed herself to be Lillantha, Priestess of the All-Mother, Fountain of Life, and she wanted me to go and pray with her. A friend is a friend, so I agreed.

tod 008

 

In a very pretty, grassy square we kneeled and after a few short moments she took me aside and told me that the All-Mother had spoken to her of my quest and wanted to help me by providing me with some magical chainmail. Very nice of her, but the +1 Skill bonus would have taken me over my Initial score, so that wasn’t much use. More interestingly though, she told me the potentially useful fact that the gates of the city are guarded by followers of the All-Mother on evenings of market-day and the three days following.

Returning to Store Street I soon found the general hub-bub of the people was thinning and separating as a large black carriage drawn by two black horses was making its way along the street. As it passed me it came to a halt and I could see a coffin inside, a coffin with my name inscribed on the lid! The rider stepped down from the carriage, a man dressed in fine clothes, the funeral director perhaps. He greeted a nearby store keeper and then turned to me. ‘I am the envoy of Death; I have come for the Talisman’. That’s my earlier question answered then. Slowly, his form began to change, what the world was seeing was some sort of illusion and I saw the things true form, a ragged skeleton gripping a small rapier.

tod 009

 

Fortunately, the envoy of Death was a bit of a pussycat at only 8/4, his trick was that a hit from him would deduct a point of Skill as well as the Stamina cost, but he was down before he even had a chance. Clearly I was now in great danger, if Death himself is onto me, I’m going to need to get the hell out of here as soon as I can. Store Street led onto Booker’s Walk, a tree-lined route that took me up to two notable buildings, one grand stone building with white haired men in togas flocking around it, the other was seemingly a library, I made the latter my destination. Taking the time to learn a little about Greyguilds itself, I read some local history which revealed religious sects control everything, a temple of Death exists, along with the most popular, Vagar, the god of thieves and cut-throats which is the most popular in the city. Then there are the two opposing religions that guard the city, worshippers of the good-aligned All-Mother and the evil-aligned Fell-Kyrinla. I stayed in the library so long that people began to file out as it was now getting dark, so I decided to follow suit and get set for the evening.

Walking down the dark, unfamiliar streets I scanned for the inviting glow of an inn, but all I found was the sudden pain of a man-trap snapping shut around my ankle for the cost of 2 Stamina. The cost was likely to get much higher too as shadowy figures began to emerge from the murk of the city and descend upon me, their sickly pallor glowing in the moonlight. ‘We are the priesthood of Death, we have come for what is ours’, said one of the figures as it tore the talisman from my stricken self. Oblivious we were to the riders descending on the group, members of the Fell-Kyrinla group attacked the Death priests, felling enough of them to claim the talisman for themselves before tearing off into the night, leaving me in the trap to rot. That could have gone better.

Running out of options slightly, my desperation was answered by a stranger who came by and stepped on the release mechanism of the trap, setting me free. He even offered me a place to stay for the night, and even though I probably wasn’t at that much risk anymore, I agreed all the same.

tod 010

 

My nights rest regained 4 Stamina and my host was quite talkative, asking if I needed further help. I spilled my guts and he listened intently, my host was apparently a sage of history named Apothecus and he was more than aware of the importance of the talisman. Just as aware as the Fell-Kyrinla, he supposed their High Priestess, Hawkana would have it in her possession by now. To regain the talisman he suggested trying the Thieves Guild by seeking a contact in the Red Dragon Inn on the Street of Seven Sins. To further help me on my way he gave me 5 gold, a +1 Skill ring (another useless Skill item) and a jade rose so he could trust my identity. I set off for the Red Dragon.

On my way a group of students in the blue togas I keep seeing around were having an argument which eventually broke into a fight. During the struggle, a small brass tiger charm was dropped by one of them so I snatched it up, put it around my neck with a mischievous grin and entered the Inn.

tod 011

Curiously, the text asked if I was wearing a brass tiger charm… outside of my own control I then started to talk to the barman, ‘You fat pig, pour me a drink before the sight of your squalid, pus-ridden face makes me vomit’. As you may imagine, this didn’t go down too well and before I knew it, the barman was hurdling the bar with his club, ready to correct my error along with the help of some of his patrons. This was a bar brawl though, not a fight to the death, when the barman (7/8) was reduced to 4 Stamina and his pal (8/9) to 5 Stamina, the battle was over. During the scuffle, the brass tiger charm fell from my neck and it dawned on me that it was this thing causing my unnecessary tirade against the barman. Regardless, it seemed I had earned myself some respect, ‘You are truly a mighty warrior – you could even be a match for Tyutchev’, the barman exclaimed. Tales of this legendary warrior were told and whilst we were getting chatty I decided to bring up the Thieves Guild. I was told the entrance to their lair was through a storm-drain near Trader’s Row and that they would meet me there tomorrow at midday. Our cosy chat was then interrupted by two figures entering the Red Dragon.

tod 012

‘Tyutchev, Cassandra, welcome!’, the forced smile of the barman suggested he actually wasn’t all that happy to see this pair. They took an interest in me though as my table suddenly became their table when they sat next to me. I introduced myself and stated that I was looking for the talisman of Death and was looking for some thieves to help me out. A flicker on interest passed across the face of the man, but then they quickly upped and left saying they had no time for such things. He went outside and started to talk to what looked like a group of thieves. Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut?

I left the Red Dragon (gaining 1 Luck for doing so alive) and headed down Merchant Street where a number of market stalls were operating, but one shop stood out. ‘Alembic the Alchemist’, read the sign. In his window was a small plate with five hazelnuts on it alongside a stuffed lynx. You see that shop, you’re going in it aren’t you? Alembic greeted me cheerfully and showed me his wares, an Elixir of Life (12g), Barkskin Ointment (7g), Fortunate Luckstone (10g) and Vapours of Speed (10g). The first three just sounded like Stamina, Skill and Luck potions under a different name, so I stumped up the 10 gold for the Vapours of Speed which should increase the speed of my actions when I inhale them. I bid Alembic farewell and headed down Carriage Street where the Silver Trinket Inn proved quite a draw as it was starting to get late. For 3g I got a cooked meal, a bed and 4 Stamina points; I’d give this place a higher score on Tripadvisor than the Red Dragon anyway. In the morning, I set off for my meeting with the thieves.

Like a child though, I became quickly distracted by something completely other, a group of people were watching a man in a long grey cloak performing magic tricks, making flowers appear and disappear. Does this really pass as being that impressive in a world where people can raise the dead? Apparently so as I stood and watched, but my attention was then diverted to a man servant who had given me a gold-embossed card inviting me to have a sherry with Mortphilio, who I was told was one of the city elders. Free drink? Screw the talisman and the end of the world, let’s roll. Down a number of tree-lined streets we went until we came up to a large, gothic looking house adorned with umpteen gargoyles. I was led into a dark room in which a decrepit-looking figure sat beneath a blanket in the corner. The servant lit four black candles and left us alone, ‘Thank you for coming. It is seldom that I entertain anyone who looks so vital and full of life’, said Mortphilio. But it seemed I had been lured into something of a situation here as Mortphilio then commanded a skull on his mantlepiece to attack me! I fought off the winged skull (7/6) and was next being pursued by a group of skeletons also summoned by Mortphilio, who was seemingly a reasonably accomplished Necromancer.

tod 025

 

Does he think I still have the talisman? Who knows, but I stumbled through a drape across the corridor and found myself in what could only be the temple of death. Hundreds of black robed figures knelt in prayer around what was a dark, evil church. The high priest Somnus started his ritual, punctuated by the sound of an organ, his altar produced a phantom lake of boiling blood from which six mounted wraiths appeared, ‘I charge you, Instruments of Death, to recover the Talisman!’, he cried. Totally metal. I had remained hidden through all this by snatching a black robe that had been hanging by the entrance. I saw another black robed individual pick up a helmet and suddenly vanish, this seemed like a good way to get out of here so I did the same and found myself transported out of the temple to the streets outside. So now we have to parties actively trying to take back the talisman…

Getting back on track, I headed down to the storm-drain where I was to meet with the thieves. I jumped down, ankle-deep in slime and came to a small round door in the wall. My Luck roll did not hold out though, I heard a click and felt a thud in my back. Looking down a harpoon protruded from my stomach and it was all I could do to stop my entrails spilling into the slime. Death took me swiftly.

However, my adventure was not over. Talisman of Death has a sort of built-in cheat system whereby incidental death is seen by the gods and you are resurrected in the story a short point before you were killed… So next time, I’ll have to make sure I pass that Luck test. You know, I have a really good feeling that I will pass it too.

Talisman of Death – Part 1

tod 001

 

#11

Talisman of Death

 

Dark forces are at work to unleash the awesome might of the Evil One, but their plans cannot be completed without the legendary Talisman of Death. YOU are the one who carries the Talisman, and only YOU can stop the Dark forces. YOUR mission is to destroy the Talisman before the dark lord’s minions reach you. But beware! Time is running out!

We begin Talisman of Death by waking from a state of unconsciousness in an idyllic cloud-dwelling castle, elaborately furnished and under beautiful blue skies. Unfortunately we have no idea at all why we are there but seem to have acquired a sword and the ability to use it very well, I had rolled a reasonably competent 10/20/9 character after all. Before long we are addressed by a resplendent song-bird, ‘Welcome, Champion of Fate. Do not be dismayed, you are not yet in danger.’ YET. The bird went on to tell me that this was the Garden of the Gods and I had been plucked from Earth to assist the world of Orband that his masters would tell me more. Descending a spiral staircase into a large circular room, two shimmering figures gave me my very non-specific reason for being plunged into this world without warning. ‘We have summoned you here to the world of Orb because we wish to prevent a fatal upset in the balance of nature… It is not right for us in the Garden of the Gods to set things right. We cannot fight him who would bring chaos to Orb. Rather we use men as our tools‘.

So they have pulled someone from Earth to do their dirty work… am I from present day Earth? Am I English? Why is my character not completely freaking out his mind right now? And who is ‘him‘?

We are sending you down to the surface of Orb. If you fall into the clutches of Death we cannot aid you. Do not fail us!‘, they continued. ‘Fail in what?‘, both my character and I asked. I did however note that ‘Death’ was capitalised… But then I lost consciousness again and was being sent down from the gardens to awake in a huge vaulted chamber on what I suppose is the planet of Orb. No windows lit the room, only dull flaming torches, which revealed two archways and very little else. Almost straight away I was disturbed by dreadful noises in the distance, infernal howling and clattering footsteps filled the air, I stood my ground and waited with my sword drawn to see what appeared from the gloom.

tod 002

A perfectly set-up but desperate looking party of adventurers came crashing into view, apparently being pursued by whatever was making those howling noises. Equally surprised to see me the leader, a shield-maiden with a crossbow demanded to know who I was and what I was doing in ‘the Rift’. Deciding to go with the truth, I said I was from another world and with a little spell-casting, the parties priest was able to confirm I was telling the truth. ‘Perhaps this warrior was sent by the gods to continue the quest?‘, he correctly supposed. It seemed this band of four were trapped in this place by a pursuing force and they only had the ability to teleport one person out of this dead-end catacomb. It was at this point our new friend, the priest, laid down some knowledge and actually told us what was going on here. Long ago, the minions of the God Death created a talisman that would allow them to summon their god to the surface of this world when the time was right. That time is now and should they be successful, the world of Orb would be turned to dust. Thankfully, a band of crusaders, the party before me, had stolen the talisman from the depths of this evil place, The Rift. Unfortunately their plan seems to have gone awry as they’re now turning to me, a bewildered idiot who they’ve never met before. But the fact that I have come from another world excited them as if I could take the talisman there, it would be beyond the reach of evil. The wizard prepared to teleport me, advising I head west to the city of learning, Greyguilds-on-the-Moor, where I may be able to find a way to return. My new pals not only handed over the Talisman of Death, they even gave me 10 gold pieces spending money. They wouldn’t be needing it though as the last thing I saw as I was teleported to safety was a cave troll and a group of dark elves catching up with the party and cutting them down.

Suddenly blinded by light I was on the surface, stood on the edge of a blackened, rocky fissure which must be the Rift the crusaders told me about. Heeding their advice I set Greyguilds as my goal and had the option of taking a direct route across open ground or a slight detour under the cover of forest, not wanting to hang about, I picked the former. Treking across the open has it’s advantages as you can see your enemies coming, but sadly, they can also see you coming. The two armed groups of orcs and dark elves I spotted ahead of me were now coming straight for me, so I went full Monty Python and chose ‘run away’ as my solution. It seemed a good one too as the pursuing packs of goons collided with each other and started to fight amongst themselves, leaving me to continue on my merry way, rising and descending a hill into a verdant, fern-laden valley.

Being chased down by two armies after being teleported and knocked unconscious by gods several times is thirsty work, so I took in a good drink at a nearby spring underneath a willow tree. Of course, the result was that I fell unconscious again. Drowsily dragging myself out of the stupor it became obvious that this willow tree had been draining something into the water to catch its prey, two eyes had opened up in its trunk and I was being attacked by the branches of this enraged Willow Weird. Fairly tough thing it was too at 8/20, but after four successful attacks I was told to end the combat as I had cut through one of the trees branches and it recoiled in pain, giving in. My prize was some of the healing sap that oozed from its wound which I promptly use to restore the 4 Stamina points I’d lost in the fight.

Continuing my westerly direction I followed the water side until my luck ran out again, some of the dark elves that had been chasing me had caught up after beating orcs with their magic and one was pointing right at me.

tod 003

I know I carry the tool to summon Death himself to destroy every living thing in the world, but will people just leave me alone for five minutes! I plunged into the river and crossed to the other bank, somehow managing to lose them again. My relief was momentarily in question again as I had crossed out onto a wide plain and could see figures emerging from a dust-cloud on the horizon, a guy with a death talisman can’t get a rest for 2 seconds on Orb. As they drew closer it became apparent that these were some sort of warrior-women band on horseback, wearing armour and looking decidedly unfriendly. Their leader circled me, demanding to know what I was doing there, so naturally I pretended to be deaf and dumb. I didn’t know how this course of action would pan out, but it actually did the trick as they immediately let their guard down somewhat and allowed me to mount a horse with them. My new gang were members of the Watch from Greyguilds, law-enforcers who apparently have issues with the leniency of the priestesses of the All-Mother. Suddenly though, a cry of ‘ambush!’ rang out, but remembering I’m supposed to be deaf and dumb, I chose not to react. Good thing too as it was a test by the Watch to see if I was true to my word. Ha. After riding a little further we came upon the gates to Greyguilds and they let me dismount and enter the city on my own. So now that we’re here, next goal is trying to figure out how to transport myself and the talisman back to Earth from an completely alien world. Can’t see that being too hard…

The once-peaceful world of Orb is in terrible danger!

So after a short break, it’s now time to stop messing around with Sorcery and eating hobbits and get back to the chronology of Fighting Fantasy by following on from House of Hell with Talisman of Death.

2014-05-09 08.55.58

This copy of the book came from eBay a little while ago just before I opted for Creature of Havoc, so I have been sitting on it for some time now. My previous encounter with non-Livingstone & Jackson penned Fighting Fantasy was Scorpion Swamp, which you might say I wasn’t all that keen on. Talisman of Death was co-written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith who you are probably aware of through the Way of the Tiger series of gamebooks.

Wayofthetiger_book1

I was a big fan of those back in the day too and as I’ve mentioned before, at the time I never actually realised that Fighting Fantasy had a variety of writers, so knowing there was a cross-over of talents between two series I read is very cool. Plenty of love still around for the series too as the recently successful Kickstarter project to create collectors editions of the books testifies. Similar to Fighting Fantasy, a few computer games were spawned from the books, one of which I do remember playing at a friends house on his Commodore 64, a ludicrously exciting thing to an 8 year old who hasn’t got access to many games on his Amstrad 6128. I seem to remember punching knives out of the air, I thought it was amazing… we were more easily pleased back then. He also had the books though and that was my introduction to Way of the Tiger, Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles were all the rage at the time, so I lapped up anything like this.

WayoftheTigermoves-NEW-small

Not only do we see a cross-over of talents though, Talisman of Death exists in the same setting as the Way of the Tiger series, the fantasy world of Orb along with a few overlapping characters and illustrator Bob Harvey. Beyond that though, this is another title I really remember nothing about, which is why I’m mostly discussing another book series entirely! I can’t even remember what the title means… is it a talisman that ‘does’ death, or is it a talisman that just happens to belong to Death? I for one am excited to find out. Feedback in the Reviews Archive is generally pretty positive though, so I think combined with the writers pedigree, I should be safe with this one. Just so long as it isn’t as tough as Creature of Havoc anyway, that’s all I’m really asking right now!