Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quick Review - Lost city of the Dwarves Part One - Discovery

I’ve been on death’s door since Sunday with a stomach virus so bare with me as I’m solely existing on antibiotics and my wife’s chicken noodle soup.
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Lost city of the Dwarves: Discovery is a “choose your own adventure” style, single player d20 based roleplaying game developed by Pen & Forge Productions (although there is a multi-player supplement). It is a meaty little volume of somewhere around 250 pages. I picked up the POD version of the book last summer with the express purpose of re-living my childhood recess days when, instead of playing with other kids, I guided an erst-while teen through time and space, a wizard’s apprentice through the trails of avenging his master and so many other adventures … Outside of Howard, Dowell, and Tolkien that book series/gimmick had the biggest effect on my future choice of hobbies and loves.
I finally got around to reading/playing my copy of Lost City of the Dwarves last Saturday. I had intended to spend some of my down time re-reading the final 2 levels of Venger’s Liberation of the Demon Slayer dungeon so that I can finally get a review out but found that I had forgotten my tablet at home. Looking for some way to pass the time I cleaned in my car out and found, buried under toddler clothes and many ponies (my two-year-old’s obsession) my print-copy of Lost City. I had honestly forgotten I even owned the book, much less that it was in my car. So with dice (always a set in my glove compartment jus tin case) in hand I decided to explore the Lost City of the Dwarves.
From a rules perspective the game has more in common with the Basic and Original Editions of Dungeons & Dragons and its retro-clones than it does with 3x and higher. Stats are boiled down to three main stats and pretty much everything else boils from them. Setting up your character can be a bit difficult as things like Base Attack, Morale and Initiative take some investigation to figure out (look at the example character sheet). Once the character is made, however, it is all pretty darn simple.
Like the typical “choose your own adventure” stories, you make decisions and turn the appropriate numbered passage. So if there are three doors and you want to go South (45) you go to passage 45. The difference comes in the fact that there is combat, traps and puzzles to be solved. Combat is typical D&D combat but boiled down to two steps – initiative and combat – with the reader rolling for both himself and the creature. Now I will tell you that cheating is easy, but I would advice against it as it takes the fun and random quality of the game away.  Traps (as far as I’ve seen) are handled in multiple passage parts, with the reader being given a choice, having a reaction and given the choice to move along (or possibly dead … damn door knob!) or try again with a different tactic.  As for puzzles I have not yet run into any but I have flipped through the book to note that they appear to be very Sunday paper in their execution. Crosswords and Word finds done in clever fonts with interesting art direction to make them actually seem a part of the sprawling dwarven city the reader is exploring.
So far I have died four times. Once at the hands of a goblin I attempted to sneak attack. Another time against a pair of goblins I tried to sneak attack (I survived my second attempt, I suggest this action!). And finally I was drowned and Shocked to death by two different traps.
Honestly, I am enjoying this book/game. For someone like me with very little time and very little real-life community in the Hobby this is the perfect escape when the online option isn’t an option. It gives me the opportunity to roll dice, and explore a fantasy world that I would otherwise be cut off from. As a “choose your own adventure” style game the only negative I have isn’t really a negative. That “negative” is that there are so many possibilities that it is extremely hard to backtrack to a point when you can start making good decisions. Basically when you die, just re-roll (or start your character back at level 1).
As a finally aside, there is a sequel (Lost City of the Dwarves Part Two - Deliverance) and a few stand alone adventures. I ordered the sequel today and plan on looking through the stand-alones and multiplayer supplement later.

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