The prosperous town of Silverton is being held to ransom by Zanbar Bone and his bloodthirsty Moon Dogs. YOU are an adventurer, and the merchants of Silverton turn to you in their hour of need. Your mission takes you along dark, twisting streets where thieves, vagabonds and creatures of the night lie in wait to trap the unwary traveller. And beyond lies the most fearsome adventure of them all — the tower stronghold of the infamous Zanbar Bone!
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City of Thieves begins with a bit of a juicier introduction than the previous books, the series taking shape and maturing as it hits it’s 5th volume I guess, the Background section spanning just shy of five and a half pages. What we learn is that your character is a renowned sword for hire, you’re a bit of a celebrity, a dragon-slayer no-less. After a long day of travelling I find myself in the trading town of Silverton, the local inn, ‘The Old Toad’, is my destination and its punters seem edgy. It isn’t long though before a banging at the heavily bolted inn door precedes the entrance of Silverton mayor, Owen Carralif, who wants to talk to me! The town was in the midst of terror. Spirit Stalkers, soulless skeletal creatures, had visited the settlement ten days prior and had demanded that the mayors daughter accompany them to reside with their master, the evil night prince, Zanbar Bone. The mayor had refused and ever since, the town is visited by Moon Dogs every night who break into houses and kill their inhabitants, so far leaving twenty-three dead. It is the mayors desire that I tackle this Zanbar Bone on his behalf as the town is on the verge of mutiny. He provides me with 30gp, an exquisite broadsword and the knowledge that the wizard Nicodemus, who can be found in Port Blacksand, may be able to help. Come dawn, I rolled up an 11/22/9 character and left for the port…
Making me feel welcome to Port Blacksand was an endless supply of black flags, heads on spikes, men hanging in cages and ultimately this nice chap. A sign of things to come as Port Blacksand was a rough place to say the least; it had been given the nickname ‘City of Thieves’ for a reason. He demanded to know my intentions in Port Blacksand, bewildered why I would come here uninvited. Not wanting to start off getting my arse kicked, I told him I wanted to see Nicodemus. A reasonable request I thought. He summoned two guards to come and escort me, but what he only announced at the last minute was that they were escorting me to jail! Unsure exactly why they were doing this, I elected to fight back and a successful Skill test later, I’d smashed their heads together, left the pair unconscious and had dashed off into the city.
Three streets with equally quaint little names were before me; Key Street, Market Street and Clock Street. Now, this isn’t a part of City of Thieves, but the Fighting Fantasy Wiki provides us with a Port Blacksand map, which I think is from one of the supplementary rule books I discussed in the prelude to this read-through. So here’s a scan for you to follow along with, dear reader.
Anyway, based simply on the logic that keys are something you often need in Fighting Fantasy books, I opted for the westerly Key Street. Sure enough, a shop sign stating ‘J.B. Wraggins – Locksmith’ was seen hanging above a shop door. I wandered into a small shop decorated by many hanging keys which surrounded a dwarf sitting at a pedal-powered key cutting device. For a mere 10gp he agreed to cut a Skeleton Key for me. Job done. Nice one, Wraggins!
Key street took a right turn to the North after I left the locksmiths, the street lined by houses and a small boy dressed in rags came running out, passed me a piece of paper and then ran back inside. ‘Arrows from six bows are pointed at you’ it read, I was to leave 10gp in the street and keep walking or I would be in trouble. Not wanting to give up any money, I kept on walking. For my boldness I was to take 1D6 of arrow hits at a cost of 3 Stamina each; fortunatley I only sustained one hit abut even still I was told to also lose 2 Luck points. Bit harsh, I’d consider that outcome very lucky! Another child came running out of another building as the arrows died down and beckoned me to follow her in. An old man rose from a rocking chair and the little girl encouraged me to lie down on a sheepskin rug, the man began to remove the arrows and treat my wounds. ‘Such a nice man’, I thought, until he requested my broadsword as payment. Now this was a really nice broadsword, I mean like a really nice broadsword. In a passage that for some reason enthralled childhood-me, the Background section describes it thus –
‘…touching the edge of the blade, you are surprised to see a droplet of blood fall from your finger. You then examine the marvelously ornate gilded serpents twining around the hilt. You have never wanted anything so badly in your life before.’
I felt like jamming the arrow back into me and walking out. It was just one arrow! But no, my character can stand up to three heavily armed guards, but not an old man, so I handed over my sword, losing 1 Skill point and went on my not-so-merry way.
A little further down the street, I saw a ‘Welcome’ sign hanging above a doorway. Needless to say, I had a look at what I was being welcomed to. A painted red room greeted me, two glass bowls sat there, one containing a silver scorpion, one containing a gold scorpion. I warily took out the silver one and was told it was a regenerative brooch and would restore 1 Stamina after every battle! I decided to push my luck and tried the gold one as well… which turned out to be a lucky brooch, restoring 2 Luck! A flight of stairs took me to the upper level of the building and only as I turned the pages did I think, ‘I’m brazenly wearing two brooches I just stole from this very house and I’m going further inside?’. Of course, those brooches weren’t intended to be freebies, they were on sale, and the salesman was upstairs. He wasn’t a man though, he was a fire-breathing Lizardine, but he was no match for me despite his extra attack where he would do 1 Stamina damage for a D6 roll of 1-3 at the end of every turn. He left behind 4gp and a copper brooch, which I decided not to risk taking given the luck I’d had with the other two.
On leaving the building, I was jumped by two guards demanding to see my merchant pass. Not owning a pass, I found myself in another fight, but at 7/4 and 6/6, these guys were about as difficult to circumnavigate as the last guards and I killed them without taking a single hit. I took 7gp, their keys and their stale bread as trophies. Continuing down Key Street, I took another right turn to head in an easterly direction and couldn’t help but notice a nice pair of boots sitting on top of a pile of rubbish. Investigating further I spied that they were my size and on trying them out discovered that they were magic elven boots! 1 Skill point restored, I clicked my heels and headed onward.
The three original streets converged here and led on towards a market square where a rabble of people had collected to humiliate some poor guy in stocks. Unsure why he was there I did the only thing I could and hurled an egg in his general direction, much like I did at a festival one year, only the guy in stocks was Fallout Boy – I digress. Among the crowd I somehow managed to get pick=pocketed, but lost only a single gold piece.
A variety of food sellers, musicians and other bustling attractions filled the square, but one guy did catch my eye. A huge strong-man was trying to play ‘catch the cannon ball’ with willing volunteers for a bet of 5gp. Like any real man, I stepped up. The rules were simple, throw a D6 for each competitor in turn, the first to roll a 1 loses. I could barely stop laughing when I went first and rolled a six, he followed by rolling a 1. The tit. Just look at him.
Another event did get my attention though, a fortune teller. Despite clearly holding something back, she told me of my journey and I learned the Nicodemus lived below a bridge to the North. And that is where we leave part one, my arrival at this bridge over the Catfish River…