The Rings of Kether – Conclusions

The Rings of Kether was an annoying book, it was so close to being quite decent but ended up being a chore to read thanks to some fairly poor story development. I touched upon some of my issues from within my read-through, it was quite obvious where the flaws were coming up as I was reading it. My comments are of course made with the caveat that I understand I have only seen one path through the book, but it felt very much like I would have got to the end of the story regardless of what decisions I made.

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At its heart this is a sci-fi detective story, and so the detective work is crucial to making this story exciting and engaging. So why, back in that bar at the very start did I have to choose who to talk to through the roll of a dice? Why couldn’t I make a judgement of who was in the bar myself? It all went wrong from there really, I was bumbling along from one place to the next, following a woman into the city night for absolutely no reason whatsoever, just hoping that she might possibly be connected to a drugs cartel. It was very much just a chain of locations, one after the other without any input from me.

What could have saved this was a little puzzle solving, some need for me to assess evidence myself rather than being shuffled along to the next clue. A few red herrings would have been interesting too, again perhaps I missed this, but what if I’d chased down the wrong man or got caught out and faced some instant-death ‘my adventure was over’ endings’?

My write-up came only to two entries as this really was such an easy book with so little to describe, our bad guys were given almost no time at all and posed even less challenge to defeat. The same could be said for a lot of the combat, especially given that you find a blaster that does 6 Stamina damage at the start of the story, not that there is much combat. That goes for the underused space combat too, which I believe I only encountered once. Having said that though, I can understand and even welcome a reduced emphasis on combat when I’m supposed to be a detective and not a killing machine, but when there’s so little detective work to do it gives you an itchy trigger finger.

Artwork wasn’t something that elevated the experience either, that laboratory illustration still puzzles me, I don’t even really know what it’s supposed to depict. Where are the bubbling chemicals and arcing electricity? There were some more exciting ones though, the weird tripedal alien was something this book desperately needed more of, and there were some cool looking things I managed to miss. More space combat was out there if I’d made other choices…

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As were robotic dogs.

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A couple of crazy illustrations caught my eye as I flipped around the book too, although they look like they belong in a very different story!

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I’d especially loved to know what the hell that second one is about!

Then there are some film-star cameos, who I believe have gone uncredited to this day…

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Mark Hammil.

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Kevin Smith.

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And Bill Murray, who is clearly as tired of this book as I am. All in all, not quite as bad as Space Assassin, but very nearly so.

The Rings of Kether – Part 2

Hot on the tail of presumed drugs traffickers, Gross and Babbet, we find ourselves overlooking a space port on an island in the middle of nowhere. Somehow I was able to land my craft there without any opposition or interest and decided to take a change of tactic. Up until now I’d tried to be subtle as possible, but this time I decided against sneaking in through one of the freight entrances, got into a nearby anti-grav vehicle and crashed it straight through the doors. Seemed to do the job too as when the dust settled I was inside a freight area looking at the four heavily armed guards I’d just crushed against a load of packing crates full os Satophil-D, presumably intended for shipping to the mainland. There was a fifth person I found there though, and this person was curled upon the floor in quite a state, looking like he’d been chewed up by an animal or a skilled torturer. No identifying marks were found on him, but I did however find four Pep Pills to add to my collection.

Leaving the area through a corridor, I found myself in an octagonal room being examined by a large, multi-sensored robot who proceeded to ask me what was presumably a security question.

‘Red I am,
the heart of a scorpion,
yet not of Arachnia at all!
Pincers I have,
but I grasp with the unseen,
In one word, what am I?’

Well, I didn’t have a bloody clue what he was, but the options I had were to pick an answer beginning with A, S or X. Guessing ‘A’, I provided the answer Antares, which as we all know is a star in the Scorpius constellation… ahem. The machine was quite happy with my answer and let me pass through to a T-junction. Taking a right I didn’t get very far as the corridor ended at a digital console saying the next shuttle was due in around 75 hours. Heading back, I took the left turn instead.

On a large door was a brass plate which read ‘Zera Gross’. Opening the door, I headed into what was presumably the office of our favourite card-playing fat lady. And you know what? There she was, sitting and dictating notes to her robot secretary, but she saw me, stopped and then lunged for her blaster. A gun fight ensued, which despite her half decent stats of 8/11, she didn’t make her way out of alive. Only two hits were needed with my pilfered super auto blaster thing to immobilise her, but unfortunately our battle left the room in pieces and also a little bit on fire so there was nothing else to be taken from here.

In the next room I found a series of vidi-screens which detailed Satophil-d production and transport, the location of a nearby asteroid seemingly the place where this stuff was actually being made. And of course, we don’t get an illustration of key bad guy, Zera Gross, but we do get an illustration of some computer monitors. Get ready, it’s a corker…

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My next step was to take out this asteroid and so I set off in my ship, but found my progress hindered by a minefield.

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Using a Skill test I was able to carefully navigate my way through these explosives without triggering a single one, but what I failed to evade were the batteries of phasers which had detected my presence and I now had to have a taste of space combat with. Not a massive struggle though, their Weapon Strength of 9 and Shields of 6 wasn’t enough to stop me and I made my way to one of the emergency airlocks into the facility on the asteroid.

It wouldn’t be an Andrew Chapman sci-fi book without a long corridor, and that’s what a faced, leading down into the bowels of the asteroid. I took a detour though to check out a room to the side, but it contained nothing but pressure suits which were of no use to me. At the end of the tunnel was a cylindrical chamber which had a security sentinel which looked like some sort of 80’s puzzle spinning through the air towards me, blue electricity arcing through its core.

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Not wanting to mess about I leapt into the air and kicked the thing. A successful Skill test later and it was laid in a heap, sparking on the floor. What a wonderful technological marvel. Moving on I arrived at a cross-roads and took a right, went through an air-lock and found myself in a waste-disposal system being sucked out into space!

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A test of Luck saw me manage to grab an emergency lever though and the system was shut down, air rushed back into the chamber and I was able to continue onwards along the original tunnel. This came out into a cavernous area which was populated by large bulbous creatures with searching tentacles, a series of spheres with handles hung above them. Seems like a slightly inconvenient way to make your drugs trafficking gang members get around, but then I’m not an intergalactic drug lord.

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A series of Skill tests saw me manage to swing from handle to handle and cross the room to the laboratory. Now believe it or not, this illustration is supposed to be a laboratory.

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I could never have imagined a space drugs laboratory could look so utterly boring. According to the text I ‘busy myself destroying some of the equipment’. Must keep ones self busy. Two exits to the room were available, a continuation of the corridor or a side door.

Moving through the door a tripedal alien holding electronic bracers was stood before me on a narrow bridge, he shouted ‘Halt!’ and fired a few bolts of electrons at me. At last! Something actually exciting is happening!

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This Arcturian Vanque had some easy enough stats to deal with (7/10) and he was gunned down pretty quickly. Along this path I came to a T-junction and took a right, the control panel of the asteroid facilities nuclear reactor stood before me, but any ideas of fleeing from a timed explosion were soon dismissed when I found I didn’t possess the key to operate the system. Boo. So I headed back and took the left turn instead.

I found myself in a small cubic room, each surface seemed to be a door with a button in the middle. I set about hitting these buttons. I had to hit them in the right sequence, each failed attempt lost me 1 Stamina point. Perhaps the sequence was revealed at some point, but if it had, I missed it and so blind luck was required. A little trial and error saw me through until one of the doors opened up to reveal what seemed to be a living area, and a sumptuous one at that. A folded screen was beside the door and in the middle of the room were two identical figures, which the text informs me ‘must‘ be Blaster Babbet… odd as I have no evidence as to what he looks like. Regardless, he was about to attack, so rather than shoot one of them I took the option to try an alternative course of action and dived behind the folded screen. Behind it was the real Blaster Babbet, the figures I had seen were merely reflections, and so with his 10/8 stats in my way, I took on the kingpin of the operation.

Like his few henchmen, he didn’t last long and I was told to turn to 400 for the epic, well-earned ending…

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My adventure was thankfully over.

The Rings of Kether – Part 1

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The Rings of Kether

Corruption is rife in the Aleph Cygni system and the flow of the illicit narcotic Satophil-d from the spaceports of the planet Kether has grown to enormous proportions. Several attempts have been made to crack the notorious drug rings of Kether, with no success. Now the Galactic Federation has entrusted YOU with this dangerous undercover mission in this wild and lawless place. But will YOU succeed?

 Hello there, just an inter-galactic salesman here, ship’s full of exotic spices and fruits, nothing else. Smart missiles? No, just a load of cumin and bananas, mate. That’s my story anyway, as I drop out of hyper-space into the Aleph Cygni system, my task is to sniff out a drugs ring and take it down. Kether is the main planet in what is apparently a very small system, a small moon named Rispin’s End was also nearby as well as an asteroid field. I figured the best place to start to find some leads would be Kether, so I set a course for the planet with my rather odd, square looking command console.

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Kether has only one starport and their checks are so thorough they didn’t bother to look at my ship, but they did hold me up at Customs and took my spy ray off me, technology such as that isn’t allowed here. Firstly, I never knew I was equipped with a spy ray, there’s no mention of it previously. Second, what the hell is a spy ray? Regardless, I don’t have one any more, so we’ll just have to complete this mission sans spy ray, it’s a tough ask, but I think I’m up to it.

Wanting to maintain a low profile, I kept well away from anywhere conspicuous and started to chase down drugs suppliers in some seedy little bars. I came across one such place called Crash, an animated neon sign above the door along with a sign saying ‘No Aliens’, so inside I went for a mingle. Once inside, I had to roll a dice to see who I would talk to, for no obvious reason I wasn’t allowed to make the choice myself. Very odd. So I threw my D6 and came up with a 2, which meant I had to approach a fat, middle-aged woman playing cards.

She is horrible; gap-toothed, burping and coarse. She is however commanding a game of cards with ease and instead of joining them I chose to watch from a distance and then follow her when she left some two hours later. It only occurs to me now that while on an high-risk undercover mission I sat in a bar watching a fat woman play cards for two whole hours and followed her home for absolutely no reason. Unfortunately, whilst sneaking through the streets my Skill of 10 couldn’t prevent me failing a test and I knocked over a hover-moped, or something, and alerted my prey to my presence. Impressively for a heft of a lady, she managed to move at a fair old pace, but I kept up as she fled and managed to see her entering a block of apartments. Allowing things to calm for a few minutes, I went over to check the names on the resident list, the one that seemed to be for gap-tooth read ‘ Zera Gross – Import/Export’. I’d better go to the City Central Library and see if I can find out any more information about this person with no perceivable links to a drugs cartel.

Almost entirely devoid of other humans, staff or otherwise, I had the pick of the terminals at the library the next day. Checking old records I tried to home in on anything to do with narcotics legal cases in the news, I came up blank except for one which read ‘Central Criminal Court 3: State vs Z.Gross and B. “Blaster” Babbet. Before Justice Zark. Charge: trafficking in illicit organic materials (Satophil-d)’. So there we have it, the randomly selected woman in the bar seems to be a key player after all. Odd though that I went to the library specifically to look her up and wasn’t actually given the option to do so directly. Inconsistencies aside, my next port of call was the State Computer File Centre to see if I could dig up any more information on these two individuals.

The File Centre appeared rather unwelcoming, a squat concrete building surrounded by razor wire, but still with a public entrance, a sign informed me though that only records of over 100 years old would be available to the public. Trying to keep things as discrete as possible I decided that breaking in would be a good way to get my hands on some more recent materials.

Returning after dark I scaled a nearby drain-pipe, crossed some cables and managed to ascend safely to the roof, and with a good Luck test I dropped through a sky-light into a room with the necessary computer terminals from which I started to extract some data. Unfortunately though, no personal or criminal data was available, all I had access to was transport data, and that transport data had vast sections missing, seemingly deleted? Someone is trying to hide something…

Someone who might be able to help me one way or another was the Air Traffic Chief, so I went over to the helipad to try and make some sense of what I’d seen. His office would be an interesting place to start, even better if he wasn’t in it, so I knocked quietly on his door and then went inside, in the process rolling a D6. This came up even and resulted in me finding his office unoccupied, so I was free to investigate. Checking his desk drawers brought up some solid evidence that shady deals were taking place, a letter from the Head Customs Officer to the Air-Traffic Chief.

Dear Aestho,

Here’s your cheque. Note that today’s flight from the east coast – No. 212 – was ‘unusual’ and should be written off as per the others. Contents will be cleared tomorrow, so tomorrows’ shuttle to Tau Ceti – No. 005 – should also be written off.

Zac Calensus

The cheque was for 3,000 kopecs! Wow! I suppose. That could be a fiver for all I know. Regardless, this is all building up nicely. Deciding to find as much information on this planet as I could before moving on, my next stop was at Customs.

Deciding against bribery and threats, my strategy for dealing with the customs officers was to continue my covert stance and so I hid myself away in the lockers of the freight depot in the hope of spotting something illegal. Not the most pro-active method I agree, and it almost got me caught as a security guard came along and started to open up and check all the lockers! As he reached mine I held my breath and hid behind a big coat, but just as he opened the door, a distant call came out – ‘Hey Harry! Time for a beer ol’ buddy!’ – and that was enough for Harry to instantly down tools and begin drinking. Classic Harry!

Eventually though, I struck gold, a heli-jet arrived and started to unload its cargo of small one-tonne boxes. Overhearing the conversation of the customs officers unloading and checking it, this was it, a big shipment of Satophil-d! The swines were stamping it as ‘PASSED’, my time had come. Jumping out of the locker, aiming my gun at them, I demanded information on who was running this racket. Two clues were stuttered out to me by the shocked officers before I arrested them and locked them up in my ship. The top floor of the Iscosceles Tower and the L16 satellite were presented to me as my options and I opted for the satellite, heading up to it entirely unhindered in my ship.

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On arriving at the satellite, the first option I was presented was to blow it up. Not being endorsed by the Bush administration I decided to actually have a look at what I was blowing up first and went on a little space walk. What followed was a sequence of Skill tests, I had to pass enough to get me to the satellite before I ran out of propulsion fuel, of which I had enough for four tests, having a Skill of 10 meant this wasn’t so bad and I managed to get a magnetic clamp onto the thing. Identifying a communications panel I opened it up and managed to access a diagnostic inlet which I was able to track data transmissions. The Iscosceles Tower I had been tipped off about was receiving a lot of communications regarding Satophil-d from a nearby unknown asteroid. I returned to Kether…

At the 15th floor of the Isosceles Tower was a door marked ‘Z.Gross & Associates. Import/Export‘. I drew my blaster and entered, finding a corridor that led off left and right. Following to the left I came out into a large open office, the place had been trashed, stripped and deserted. Perhaps they knew I was coming… Hoping I might find someone still in the act I pressed on and found an office where two thugs were shredding documents and throwing ‘magnetic memory’ into an incinerator. This was 1985 remember, where average hard drive capacity was less than 100mb!

They didn’t last long in an exchange of blaster fire with me though and I was able to take the automatic blaster one of them carried, which would allow me to do 6 Stamina damage rather than 4, not bad progress after only one fight. As the smoke cleared a small, gangly officer worker tried to jump me with a paperweight, a Luck test thwarted him though and I had him a full-nelson asking him just what the hell was going on. Gurgling and spluttering, he motioned towards a vidi-link.

Flashing on the screen was a message that read –




These co-ordinated were for a small island off the coast, and when I got there I found a small, but predictably busy heli-jet pad…

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…I can only hope something happens there in part two!

Devastated by a killer virus, the world you once knew is a wilderness

Once upon a time, Mel Gibson wasn’t an utter maniac, he used to make films about policemen on the edge and Scottish terrorists, but one day he made a film called Mad Max. Ian Livingstone saw that film and then immediately wrote Freeway Fighter.

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Our adventure takes us to 2022, a world where World War 3 had been avoided and revolutionary farming techniques have all but eradicated world hunger, everybody is friends and it seems like science has saved humanity. An interesting detail is that the 2022 ‘soccer’ World Cup is actually being held in Australia, as if FIFA would hold it in such a crazy place. Even crazier is the idea that the final will be England vs USA. Anyway, the day that final was played, everything went a little bit Stephen King and a deadly virus emerged from somewhere in New York and within four days, 85% of the worlds population was dead. Civilization crumbled and people were willing to kill each other for a can of beans. As a survivor, our character finds himself living in the outpost town of New Hope where those holding onto the idea of civility hold up against the other half of humanity who are now rampaging around the place, looting and pillaging. New Hope has received word of another settlement in the south, San Anglo, and they are wanting to trade 10,000 litres of fuel for some of New Hopes food, which it has in abundance. So who do you think has to drive them sacks of grain and then bring back a tanker of oil amidst a lawless world of violence? That, would be our hero, who I shall call Mel.

We do actually get to name our hero in this book too as the adventure sheet has a section for the drivers name. There are actually a number of different rules to follow, we have 2D6+24 for our Stamina for instance. Unarmed hand-to-hand combat deals out 1 Stamina damage per turn and whoever takes 6 Stamina of damage first is knocked unconscious. Gunplay is run as normal combat is, but 1D6 damage is done per hit. Combat can also take place between vehicles as well, with a 1D6+6 Firepower score being the equivalent to Skill and a 2D6+24 Armour value being your Stamina, damage is again 1D6. We also have a number of special weapons in rockets, iron spikes and oil canisters.

Freeway Fighter is actually a book I remember getting as a kid, I actually remember being able to talk my dad into buying me a new Fighting Fantasy book, which is always a super exciting day as a youngster. My town hosts an annual fete with rides and all manner of duck hooks and associated rollercoaster fun times. Being a fan of video-games and books about wizards, this wasn’t exactly my scene… and to be honest, not a lot has changed! Anyway, as I managed to convince my dad that the money he would save on taking me on the rides would be best spent on a new book, and bingo – I’m cruising around a wasteland looking for oil.

With this book I get my first opportunity to steal anecdotes and information from Jonathan Greens You Are The Hero, which if you are sat reading this blog, you absolutely must own. From reading what is the Fighting Fantasy bible I am left wondering what might have been as apparently the amazing Iain McCaig was initially set to illustrate this book and produced this wonderful drawing before Kevin Bulmer took over.

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But you never know, Kev might have sketched up a storm here, so let’s get stuck into the book and find out shall we?



Space Assassin – Conclusions

Cambridge Dictionaries defines an assassin as ‘someone who kills a famous or important person, usually for political reasons or in exchange for money’. It therefore am left perplexed by the conclusion of Space Assassin in that my character appears to leave his target alive, we drag an unconscious Cyrus from the Waldo and then that’s it. Unless there is a very dark inference that we then kill an unconscious man before making our escape, I think we’ve not exactly fulfilled our contract. It should also not go without mention that we’ve ended our adventure with what has to be the lamest ended of the series so far, two sentences and a single word, I’d be amazed if it can be topped in it’s ”will-this-do?‘-ness’!

Suffice to say that this was the weakest book I have played so farIt is a toss-up with Scorpion Swamp if I’m honest, but even though that book made some bizarre and infuriating decisions based around a non-linear structure that didn’t quite work, it at least tried something new. Space Assassin didn’t even feel like I’d been on an adventure. One long straight corridor after another, another meaninglessly easy piece of combat, no real obstacles to overcome, I had it finished in a single sitting that left me thinking ‘is that it?’.

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Setting and story I quite liked, a Josef Mengele style sci-fi villain certainly has legs, it just didn’t use them. In-fact, he actually turned out to be an absolute pussy. Perhaps some of the padding that was added to the original script by the publishers helped make the experience feel so empty, I guess we will never know. My play-through did miss a few additional sections that were added by the publisher though, one being this puzzle from page 332 where you have to pick a path across the room and add up the numbers on the tiles along your path to give you a page reference. I have no desire to figure that one out!

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Also missed was some sort of future video-game which pitted you in tank combat against an AI across a grid system, the point of which I’m not entirely sure of!

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Less than spectacular illustrations seemed to pepper my route, but some better stuff was hidden away. Had I chosen to kill the small rodent scientists early on I would have been rewarded with this picture of my victims.

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And I can only imagine this interesting little scene would have greeted me if I’d somehow made my way to the surface of the surreal ‘outdoors’ section? Actually reminds me of the style we saw in the Sorcery series.

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Similarly crazy looking were these fellows…

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….and this guy who maybe failed the cut for Destiny.

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I was also glad to have avoided this monster, which may have been even more deadly opponent than the dreaded cleaners.

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One more illustration stood out to me as being particularly poor though, apparently this is supposed to be some sort of plant thing. To me it just looks like a mess.

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Anyway, Space Assassin is not a book I will remember with affection, as Bernard Black might put it, ‘Enjoy. It’s dreadful but quite short.’