Starship Traveller – Part 1

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Starship Traveller

The fate of the Starship Traveller and her crew lies in YOUR hands! Sucked through the nightmare of the Seltsian Void, the starship Traveller emerges at the other side of the black hole into an unknown universe. YOU are the captain of the Traveller and her fate depends on YOU! Will you be able to discover the way back to Earth from the alien peoples and planets you encounter, or will the starship be doomed to roam uncharted space forever?

Well this one’s different. My initial experience with this book was suddenly realising that I was actually going to have to RTFM. The standard adventure sheet of the past three books was all but thrown out of the window in favour of a set-up that reflects the sci-fi staples that are ship and crew. Infact, courtesy of Gamebooks.org, here’s a scan.

But before I get ahead of myself, what’s this one about exactly? Eschewing the idea of having some sort of proper plot, Starship Traveller strips away so much fat, there is barely any space-bacon left. Infact, the little blurb at the start of this post is basically it. You’re the captain of a big starship, which travels, and have to find your way back home after being sucked into a black hole. Sucks to be you. So, the first thing you have to do is figure out your ships abilities, my Weapon Strength (1D6+6) was 10 and my Shields (1D6+12) was 18. Pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Good rolls continued as I determined my crew abilities, which ended up looking like this…

Captain – 10/18/12
Science Officer – 12/17
Medical Officer – 8/18
Engineering Officer – 11/21
Security Officer – 10/20
Security Guard 1 – 11/19
Security Guard 2 – 11/18

Skill reflects combat ability as well as the crew members ability at their job, although the non-combat crew suffer a -3 penalty if forced to fight. A number of other little rules presented themselves too, but I will cover them as and when they come into play. And so, by Ziltoid, let the adventure begin!

As I say, the story begins with the Traveller, despite the crews best efforts, being sucked into a black hole; big explosion and my whole crew was knocked unconscious, all on page 1. And I thought Faster Than Light was tough.

As we regain consciousness, the combined efforts of my highly Science & Engineering team come to the conclusion that we are completely lost. The engineers got my warp drive up and working and a glance at my long range scanners identified three nearby systems, two of which potentially were home to intelligent life. After quickly, and embarrassingly, Googling which of Port & Starboard were left & right, I decided to head for the Port-side system. I was totally going left.

Along the way, my sensors picked up a ship heading my way, a Class D Starcruiser (which could be good or bad for all I know) which soon hailed me on the ships video monitor. It was Commander M’k Tel of the Imperial Ganzig Confederation (which could be good or bad for all I know). Regardless, the dude informed me that I was in charge of an unregistered vessel and had wandered into Imperial territory, instead of stating my name and purpose as instructed, I decided to scan their ship.

Taking offense to my actions, the Starcruiser fired a volley of laser bolts at my ship, causing me to lose 2 Shields. Falling in line, I told him what had happened to my ship and crew, but skeptical of my story, M’k Tel instructed me to prepare for his First Officer to board to check things out. Agreeing, we soon had a brown reptilian thing on board, snarling and brandishing a weapon. Translators told me that he wanted to be taken to the computer room. Something didn’t seem right, so I took him on a bit of a detour through the lower decks. In this impromptu tour, we went through the animal behaviour labs where our visitor began shrieking at the sight of an eagle. Puzzled, I took a chance and released the bird which attacked the apparently terrified intruder. So, Eagle vs Alien in combat was my first battle. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that one coming. The eagle managed to land a blow, but when the alien got a hit in, he cowered and pleaded for the bird to be called off. He explained that eagles were sacred creatures in his Ganzigian culture and he could not harm it. He was soon beamed back to his Starcruiser and the Traveller was left alone; by simply carrying an eagle on board we could not be harmed.

A scan of the area showed that there was a nearby solar system which became my next destination. Two planets were available to me, a red one and a blue one, I set a course for the latter and set down on the planet with my Science, Medical and Engineering officers.

This was where I realised that map taking is going to be a bit weird for this book! Mixing space decisions, movement and planet surface actions will be a pain, but I’ll try and make sense of it somehow! My current predicament saw me on what seemed to be some sort of road surrounded by small incomplete buildings, the road leading up to one big one. Walking into one of the smaller buildings I woke a bulky figure who jumped up to its single foot, shouting loudly in a language not picked up by my translator. Holding up our hands, my crew and I made out that we were friendly and the little guy soon relaxed. Oddly, my translator now seemed to work fine and I could understand every word he said. He was a Timol and this place was basically a refuge for aliens from all over the galaxy, seen as some sort of ‘promised land’, aliens came from far and wide to settle here. However, in some sort of communist movement, nobody was allowed to take charge, everyone was considered equal, resulting in total chaos. He did however suggest that the planet Culematter was very advanced and may be able to help me figure out what was going on, so I should head there.

Before I left, I decided to check out the larger building. This one was full of aliens of all shapes and sizes, one of which approached me and took me on a quick tour. My guide was named Fioral and he was really hammering home this equality thing they have going on. Apparently, some aliens enjoy attacking people and because of this equality, it is their right to do so, but so as to warn people, they wear guard uniforms. Of course, I was then promptly attacked by three men in guard uniforms who were soon seen off by me and my crew. Fioral didn’t seem too bothered by the attack and offered to show me some more of the place. The map room sounded like a good idea. In there I learned that I was in the Magnus solar system and the location of Culematter was also noted. Saying goodbye Fioral, I beamed back up and due to my original Medical officer being alive, all crew members healed 2 Stamina.

The other planet in this system, Trax, I learned in the map room had been devastated by war and so before heading off in search of Culematter, I set down on Trax. No radio communications could be made, by a system of roads seemed to focus on a settlement of some sort. My Science officer and Engineering officer were with me and indeed, the place was wrecked, empty streets and derelict buildings. But suddenly a shape appeared…

Gasp! See you next time, kids…

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Will you and your crew be doomed to roam uncharted space forever?

Starship Traveller was a book I was very unsure of back when I first read it. I don’t want to say I wasn’t a fan of Sci-Fi as I had R2-D2, C3PO and Boba-Fett on my 5th birthday cake, but I was always more attracted to the swords and sorcery end of fantasy. It was more Hero Quest than Space Hulk, although that did change as I got older. I particularly have fond memories of the Megadrive/Genesis game, Starflight, which is a crew-based space exploration game, originally for home computers and now on GOG. Anyhow, Starship Traveller was never one that caught my attention at the time as I scanned up and down the book lists at the start of every Fighting Fantasy.

So, cut to my mother coming home one day to present me with a brand new Fighting Fantasy book that she had found in a charity shop. My ungrateful face falling on realising that the book was of course Starship Traveller. I think it may have been one of the early versions of the book, similar to what I have here now, pre zig-zag! But still, I wasn’t that impressed. However, once I got sat down to read it, I was actually quite taken with the crew system and the different atmosphere the book had compared to the others, I actually ended up enjoying myself. It never did unlock a love for Star Trek though, which it obviously draws a lot of influence from.

This is pretty much all I can remember about the book! Looking through it now, it’s in very good condition with a clean adventure sheet, no notes, but rather odd to see a Fighting Fantasy book without the customary green spine; this one is blue! It cost £1.50 back in the day, that’d barely get you a bottle of Coke nowadays… I’m looking at the illustrations though and I think we’re hitting a low with this one. They’re pretty stylised, that I can tell, but I can also tell that they’re pretty damn ugly. I won’t be ordering prints of any of these to frame, that’s for certain.

The Forest of Doom – Conclusions

Another bad ending then! Nevermind, we’ll chalk up a few more victories along the way I’m sure. At least I got out alive, just about anyway, that Wyvern very nearly had me in the end.

I have to say though, despite my memories of this book being fond ones, it’s probably the least enjoyable of the four I have done so far. Perhaps I just had a lot of bad luck though as it did seem that I missed an awful lot of encounters and locations. As I read through the book I noted a vast number of illustrations of events and people I never witnessed; so many items I took or found, I never discovered a situation to use them in. I seemed to be punished way more often than I was rewarded for anything, especially the Shape Changer at the start; a very tough, but pointless fight.

The whole thing felt a little diffuse, despite the attempt to lock in a more detailed backstory than the first two books, I never really felt in touch with my goal, near the end I actually forgot I was looking for a hammer at all. But perhaps the book does offer re-playability, maybe a second read-through could be done at some point. At the end of the book, this was obviously a given option as I was given the chance to return to page one. It’s an interesting way to get you to complete your map of the forest and find all the secrets within, but while it ties your adventure together as a whole it would also break immersion somewhat if you were to meet enemies you had already killed etc. Perhaps you could make up your own rules at that stage. Here’s my route through anyway, might hang onto this one in-case I go back into Darkwood Forest one day…

Before I go, I’ll also bring up my seemingly customary bitching about a piece of artwork. At the start, I mentioned the odd traits of the illustrator for this book and I have to question his familiarity with human anatomy. Perhaps someone can help me figure out exactly what sort of muscle structure this guy has, as I’m not sure it’s one that you and I share!

The Forest of Doom – Part 3

Down a well is where we were if memory and my map serves me correct? Having just had an epic confrontation on my hands and knees with a tiny gremlin, I continued to explore the tunnels hidden in the back of the well, following a turn in the tunnel to the south. The tunnel opened up a little into a small room with scant furnishings around a wooden box. Upon opening the box, another gremlin came flying out and failed in an attempt to stab me due to a sucessful Luck roll. What the hell a gremlin was doing sitting in a box deep underground I’ll never know. Again, combat was made all the trickier as I was forced to my knees by the low ceiling and with an effective Skill of 5, I actually took a fair few hits, taking my Stamina to single figures before I killed the little sod. It wasn’t really worth the trouble either as all I could find of worth in the room was a gold ingot worth 28gp, but so heavy I had to drop an item to take it with me, so it stayed put. Moving north through the tunnels this time I was soon pulling an arrow out of my shoulder as presumably more gremlins lay in wait further down the passage. Indeed, this was the case and thankfully, they were extremely weak so even in the confined space, they were killed without taking damage myself. More curious clay hands were found in the room, so I took one along with 3gp.

 

Heading back up and out of the well, feeling very much like I’d just gone on a wild-goose chase, I heard footsteps coming from above me, coming down the ladder. Not waiting to see who it was I grabbed the leg of whoever it was and pulled them down, delighted to see that another gremlin had just gone flying past me into the water below.

After climbing all the way out I continued in a Westerly direction and discovered a small bearded man in a little red jacket, fast asleep atop a mighty toadstool. I think it was fairly safe to assume he was a gnome. I gave him a quick nudge to wake him up and he subsequently fell off his toadstool. I quickly introduced myself and my quest and at the prospect of obtaining some information, I handed over 5gp. He told me that somewhere to the north he had seen the skeleton of a Goblin in a crypt, perhaps he had part of the hammer I was looking for? I headed off, looking for a northerly turning…

 

And lo, I did find my northerly turning, but the first thing it brought me to was an empty wooden hut and on it’s porchway sat a small blue vase. Inside, it appeared inky black, nothing could be seen, but there was something in there, so I had a rummage around and despite apparent intense pain I pulled out a small handful of objects. A Phial of Strength which gave me +5 Stamina was consumed straight away, but coming with me on my journey was 5gp and a dragons tooth.

A little further north, I thought I had found my crypt, a stone building which had a locked door requiring a silver key, which I predictably didn’t have. I did however have a shoulder though and a lucky dice roll later, the soor was smashed open. Descending some gloomy stairs I realised that I had in-fact discovered the crypt that the gnome spoke of. I lit a candle for a better look and there lay the skeleton of a goblin next to a huge stone box. However, my attempts to open the box were thwarted, the lid was a huge stone slab and without a supply of ‘Dust of Levitation’, I couldn’t shift it and so had to leave the crypt empty handed. Bugger.

 

Somewhat resigned to failure, I trudged onward through to the north. A sparkling in the trees caught my eye, but moving closer to investigate, I was surrounded by a large shadow. A dragon shaped shadow at that. Apparently I had disturbed a Wyvern, a Wyvern who had just spat a giant fireball at me, which thankfully missed. As I didn’t possess a flute, I had to indulge the thing in combat… Enya fan I guess. Bloody hard battle it was too, my Skill of 8 was a real crutch against the Wyverns 10/11 stats, but a load of Luck rolls got me through the fight by the skin of my teeth.

 

And now onto my treasure! At the lower end was a 10gp stash and a throwing knife, but more interesting was a gauntlet and a gold ring. I put on the gauntlet and was delighted to find that it was a Gauntlet of Weapon Skill and would give me +1 to my attack rolls! Gleefully I tried on the ring… which turned out to be a Ring of Slowness, forcing me to deduct 2 from my attack rolls. DAMN YOUR EYES, LIVINGSTONE!!!

After this latest disappointment, I continued north only to hear voices and cracking of dry twigs. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by bandits. Given my post-wyvern weariness and the way I’d just been screwed by Livingstone, I elected to just do whatever they wanted. Five objects from me was what they required to allow me past, each gold piece was considered a single item, so I gave them 5gp and bid them good day. I did mention a while ago about the illustrator seemingly not being able to draw a convincingly solid weapon grip, well, the bandit leader is a prime example.

 

Anyway, it seemed as though the bandits were the last challenge I would face in Darkwood Forest as the trees cleared and I stepped out into Stonebridge!

 

Rather embarrassingly though, I’d shown my face without the hammer I had set off to find. A rather unspectacular end to the journey, I was informed simply that I had failed in my quest, I was unable to face Gilibran, the dwarf king of Stonebridge, and set off to the east to rest. Curiously, I was given the option to search the forest further, returning to Yaz at the start and effectively starting the adventure again with my current character. New Game + wasn’t something I was looking for now though and so I settled for the bad ending again. My adventure was over.

The Forest of Doom – Part 2

Out onto the grassy plains I stepped, we were now free from the forested area that the adventure began in and the well trodden pathways through the vegetation were now guiding me forwards. Heading past a few northerly paths, I progressed in an easterly direction before eventually being forced to take a northern route. My initial purchases from Yaz came up good for me here though as the vegetation I was walking through started to wrap around me and pull me down, but thankfully my Plant Control potion was able to convince the Tangleweed to release me before it could suck all the juices out of me, or so I presume.

Through this encounter I made my way further north to find myself at the bank of a flowing river where I met a centaur. My pacifist leanings led me into conversation with him and I soon found him to be a quite pleasant chap who was glad to meet someone who wasn’t trying to kill him. Regardless, the cheeky swine still wanted 3gp to carry me across the river. I didn’t have 3gp, being nice gets you nowhere it seems, should have ended him. So, I was left to cross the river myself, which inevitably resulted in bad things, but not as bad as it could have been. I was subjected to a violent leech attack, which cost me one of my Provisions as I had to tip salt on the thing to get it off. Something which suggests to me that my meals consist entirely of salt. Interesting.

After this, I decided to set up camp for the night and was woken in the dead of night by howling sound that only served to draw my attention to the entirely unrelated giant spider that was crawling through the trees towards me. No problem to me though, the thing was slain without landing a single blow on me, and I’d just woken up and everything.

My next discovery was a cave which emitted a snoring sound. A little tippy-toeing helped me discover a sleeping cave troll, complete with obligatory giant club. The guy was sleeping close to a big leather bag though, which I intended to take. Again, my astute purchases did me proud here as the Net of Entanglement proved its quality by gracefully flying through the air and encompassing the cave troll into an angry, struggling ball. I ran from the cave, giggling like a school-girl, to investigate my booty. A slightly disappointing 5gp and a brass bell were in there, but hopefully that bell will save my ass at some point.

Wandering through the pathways to the west, I arrived at a well. Investigation led me to find a ladder running down, which duly went to climb and then fell down, cutting my head in the process. A torchlit passage ran off to the side however and following this brought me to a T-junction at which I took a right turn. A curtain hung across the tiny passage, which revealed a small gremlin when pulled back. The little fellow was examining a red clay figure of a human hand, which he strangely smashed as soon as he spotted my entrance. A difficult fight ensued as I had to knock 3 Attack Point off every round due to the cramped conditions, but given the fact he was a tiny gremlin and I a mighty hero, I destroyed him. My reward came in the form of a medallion which I took from his neck, apparently worth 9gp. Woo.

I climbed back into the tiny passageways and began to crawl back down to the T-junction where I would explore  the other end of this small underground network… In part three I will anyway…