Seas of Blood – Conclusions

Straight off the bat, let’s get this out of the way, Seas of Blood is much better than Space Assassin and The Rings of Kether. However, it is not without some significant flaws, some of which I brushed upon in my read-through, but I’ll talk a little bit more about them here.

Artwork has become a big deal to me in reading these books again, I take a great deal of pleasure in some of the wonderful illustrations from a diverse range of artists we have seen in Fighting Fantasy books, it’s something I appreciate far more than as a child. So when I see them being handled badly, I do find it very frustrating. Bob Harvey has done some really good work in other books and it continues here, my gripe is not the subjective quality of the artwork, but the choice of scenes that are granted a full illustration. I highlighted two monsters described as being utterly extraordinary beasts but given no accompanying picture, now this isn’t Lovecraft, show us the damn thing!

I actually got thinking about how the process works in putting together a book, is the writer in full control or is there a discussion along with the artist over what might best fit his or her style, ideas on how the image can be composed etc… So, I took to Twitter and got an answer from the horses mouth.

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I’m going to say that we can therefore blame the writer! My reports on the book featured what felt like the fewest number of illustrations I’ve been able to feature to date, which I realise makes my blog an impenetrable wall of text, so I’ve tried to include some of the better ones here that I didn’t see.

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A failed Luck test I believe would have seen me sailing into the jaws of our cover-beast, the hydra. I do like it when the cover isn’t some abstract image and we get to encounter that moment for ourselves.

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And here we see a dead bloke. I don’t know if you noticed, but I died a lot in this book. The overall difficulty here is very high, given the lack of ways to heal your crew and indeed yourself, I’d be surprised if people have much joy completing the book without some very solid initial stats. I scraped through at the end with a Crew Strength of 2, a massive problem when there are insta-fails associated with your Crew Strength and there is no rule stating that your Crew Strength is restored like your Stamina is by travelling. Not even the party at the village near the end restored any vitality in us; low initial Crew stats basically means you have no chance.

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An enormous creature I missed out on was this guy, but I can’t think it really mattered much as reward was few and far between. I get the idea that sometimes you make the wrong decision and have to deal with the consequences, you are punished. But in any kind of game, especially an RPG, the fuel is progression and development, you have to be rewarded for your accomplishments. So when I get through tough situations like beating The Horror, an opponent with 12 Skill no less, I expect to get at least something out of it, especially in a book where the central theme is getting loot! Abdul probably got something from all of his encounters, he managed to get together nearly 800 gold after all. I’d be unsurprised if there was no room for error in this book and that a very specific path had to be taken to get that 800 gold… is it actually possible to get more?

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These birds were probably worth a fair bit, Abdul probably nicked the lot of them, the git.

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Lizard men are something that have made a few appearances in Fighting Fantasy books and these guys were branded as such, but are significantly different to the ones we have seen in Island of the Lizard King and will see in Battleblade Warrior. Perhaps a different sub-species? I note the ones in the desert scene have webbed feet, perhaps an odd physical development for such an environment… but maybe I’m overthinking the analysis here, this isn’t Dark Souls lore.

My feedback here has been quite negative so far and I guess that makes sense as I didn’t especially enjoy my time with this book, as I’ve described, the balancing of everything is way off, much like Space Assassin and The Rings of Kether in-fact. What I did like though was the open premise of the book, sailing around and encountering different people and places promised an experience similar to Starship Traveller. Now I realise that wasn’t everyones cup of tea, but I enjoyed seeing these little short stories of what was happening in different corners of the galaxy. To an extent we got that here too, lots of mini-adventures in different locations, I could play the book again and have a vastly different experience I imagine. Were it balanced better I think this would have been a much more rewarding read.

Alas, things just didn’t pan out that well in the end and despite me maddeningly having two weeks of sailing time left, I failed to beat Abdul, but here he is, showing off his pitiful treasure hoard in the winning scenario.sob 018

And the epic conclusion to the story where you beat Abdul the Butcher to become King of the Pirates?

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He does prattle on doesn’t he? TLDR, dude. TLDR.

Steve Jackson wrote the next one? Thank christ.

 

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Seas of Blood – Part 3

We partied on the Three Sisters islands until we actually died, The Beastie Boys would have been proud. Abdul the Butcher would however not have been all that impressed, and so we need to have another go there. Thrown in a cell to be executed again, this time we got Lucky and one of my pirate pals managed to find a loose bar which we managed to work free. Oddly our motley crue had been left armed and so we were able to slay the unsuspecting villagers quite easily in a group battle (7/6). Not satisfied, the village was torched whilst the women and children fled inland. Sadly though, no actual loot was to be found, another situation we’d come through with no reward. Remaining within the Three Sisters region, we set out to explore the volcanic-looking island.

We landed on a sandy shore on the edge of some dense jungle foliage, and a short walk along the beach later and it was all going a bit Island of the Lizard King.

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Much like our long-lost Mungo (nvr4get), we lost some crew here without the chance to fight back. Rising up from the sand a big crab-thing grabbed a few men who were whisked up and carried off into the sea, costing me 2 Crew Strength points. And some beloved companions, I suppose. I ushered the landing party inland to ensure their safety.

My captain skills clearly need some work though as I ushered them inland to be greeted by ‘the ugliest looking critter you have ever seen’ with ‘hundreds of tree-trunk like legs supporting a body as twice as long as the Banshee, while its head – which is mostly mouth – is stacked with knives for teeth‘. Sorry lads, my bad. I include a quoted description though as for such an amazing sounding beast, we are left without an illustration. I suppose we might have missed out on that dynamite iceberg picture though if we got this one, so best not complain too much I suppose? Eh?

We’d best fight the bloody thing then. ‘The beast rears its head and opens its mouth in the sharpest grin ever seen by man or god’, and the text enquires if we had found the Crossbow of Axillon on our journey, which as we have barely found anything at all, let alone mystical weaponry, meant we would have to do this the hard way. Our foes name was ‘The Horror’ and was a tough one with stats of 12/12, but thankfully our crew was still very strong despite being nibbled on by crabs and after a big fight where we lost many good men, we finally took down this most legendary beast. And our reward? Nothing.

Wondering if it was really worthwhile being a pirate anymore, the final of the Three Sisters islands, ‘the palm-covered one’, was where I was plotting a course for. Ignoring the white shores, we headed straight inland and came into a cleared area around a lagoon where a smaller pirate ship had anchored and not too far away we could see a group of piratey looking folk burying something in the sand…

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No messing around now boys, we’re sucking at pirate so far. We bulldozed these losers and took their stash for ourselves, 112 gold to add to our haul and we were done with the palm-covered island.

Nippur was practically on the horizon now, it was one final slog away and I had to test my Crew Strength against a 3D6 roll. Unfortunately, coming right off the bat of having had a few big fights, my crew was absolutely buggered and I failed. The winds picked up and Nippur wasn’t where we expected it to be… my crew had sailed us off-course somehow and we had missed our deadline. My adventure was over!

So, let’s say we hadn’t just fought the most ferocious god mouth of knife-teeth that ever lived and we managed to pass that Crew Strength test, this time we actually did have Nippur on the horizon and were on the home stretch. Curiously, the text asked if I had the Bag of Four Winds. Why, yes! An item I actually had! Oh and what’s that? Did I give the crew 100g to not mess around with them? Well… no, I shouted at them instead like a proper captain would. Rewarding my strong leadership, my loyal crew snuck into my cabin and took those wind bags, opening them up hoping to find some spoils for themselves. What they actually achieved was to create a storm so ferocious it raged for three whole weeks and carried the ship all the way back to Tak. Nice work, morons – my adventure was again over.

So, let’s say we hadn’t just fought the most ferocious god mouth of knife-teeth that ever lived and we managed to pass that Crew Strength test AND we’d coughed up 100g to my ungrateful, scumbag crew… let’s try and progress shall we?

Sailing into the port of Nippur my scumbag crew were overjoyed to have made it, I was certain there was still time for four or five more insta-fails at least before we finished, but we had cruised in with (I think) 34 days clocked up at sea. A little odd that we didn’t think to make use of the two weeks plus we had left before the wager was over… Regardless, Abdul was supposedly already here and waiting for us on top of the mountain peak of Nippur, but this interior of the island was entirely walled off. Exploration of this wall led us to a break flanked by huge statues from which hung the bodies of dead sailors, inexplicably a wizened old man in a black robe stated that to access the mountain we would have to defeat ‘the keeper’. Couldn’t we have just agreed to meet Abdul in the pub?

Agreeing to the fight I was stripped of my sword and introduced to my opponent who I would have to tackle one-on-one, bare-handed.

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I was slightly alarmed by this one. What followed was a form of non-standard combat where I was given three choices (punch it’s nose, slap it’s face, whack it in the crotch…etc) and my choice could result in one or both of us losing Stamina. This would continue until one of us was dead, the Keeper having 16 Stamina, I (if I can decipher my notes correctly) had 14.

Genuinely, I did actually come out of this one victorious and was sent on up to meet Abdul and have our booty totalled up to see who was the Pirate King, or whatever it was we were doing. I had to round the amount of gold I had found down to the nearest hundred, divide by two and turn to that page. Having 258 gold, I did some maths…

There’s one out-and-out winner and rather than waste time with a speech I’ll get on with the job of announcing the winner who, today, has come first in this competition to see who the winner is in the king of the pirates competition that we have all come to today wondering who indeed will it be, who wins the prize of king of the pirates?

It was Abdul.

And it wasn’t even close. I’d needed at least 800 gold to beat his total, I was evidently one of the worst pirates in the cove. I had been hopelessly trounced. Long live King Abdul.

My adventure really was now over.