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Monday, 5 July 2010

"The Honey Trap" - DW scenario part 1

Something a bit out of the ordinary this week - a Dragon Warriors scenario, not of the carefully crafted sort you might expect to find in a book, but the rough-n-ready notes I actually use to plan out an evening's adventure.

I should explain that the scenario has none of the character development or backstory you will have seen in previously published Dragon Warriors adventures by me and Oliver. The reason for this is, like I said, that it was not originally written for publication, but simply as a set of notes for us to run a game. The story elements you would normally see in a published scenario – the player-characters’ rivals, the unexpected reversals, the plot twists – would therefore have been improvised based on events in the ongoing campaign. The simple business of a group of players (our players, anyway) travelling from Ferromaine to Emphidor is quite enough to generate plot threads from which to weave several evenings’ gaming, and there is rarely any need to fall back on the written adventure, which is usually only there as a safety net if inspiration and improvisation should falter.

As you will see, this is almost a "dungeon" adventure - at least as it appears on paper. In the actual execution, the dungeony bit would have occupied only the last half hour, if that. I’m presenting the notes here pretty much as originally written to give you an idea of what I might prepare for a game. The jokey headings, for example, are for mnemonic purposes when I’m running the session and do not reflect the tone of the adventure. I never use “send-up" humour, though there is always plenty of in-character humour.


The scenario requires some pretext for the characters to fetch a shipment of goods from upcountry in either Emphidor or Analika. If they are acquainted with Melano Fiorensca of Ferromaine (from the “Mungoda Gold” scenario) then he could have engaged them to do this.

The characters are to deliver a payment of 25,000 Florins to Father Armend Kalari, patriarch of the monastery of St Meropi, which is a five-day trek up into the heavily wooded Kaldare Hills from the small town of Akshir in Emphidor. The monks are to provide them in return with fifty jars of vechel, a special honey liqueur flavoured by the blossoms of the upland forests.

Lost in the woods

A day or two after leaving Akshir, they may notice that their guide, a middle-aged trapper called Kandoni Agarni who runs errands for Father Armend, seems increasingly uncertain about which way to go. At last he admits that he doesn't recognise the path they're on, but "we just have to keep on east".

Frightened of disappointing the patriarch, to whom he is devoted, Kandoni will not readily admit how inexplicable his uncertainty is – he makes this journey several times a year, after all, and is an experience tracker. If pressed, he will come up with excuses: “I had too much to drink last time I came this way”, “the usual route is flooded, so I took a different path” and so on.

Nice legs…

Passing through forested hills, they see a young woman walking along the lane ahead of them. They see her long black hair, which hangs to her slim hips, swaying gently in the splashes of golden sun between the branches. She is strolling along, not hurrying at all, but takes no notice if they call to her.

They are in for a shock if they catch up to her. Despite her comely body, her face is that of an old lady. Her eyes are bloodshot and she looks listlessly ahead like a sleepwalker.

Village of sleepwalkers

The woman leads them to a village. Everyone here is the same: youthful in body, but with haggard faces. They loll around in the sun or else wander aimlessly around the village. The characters cannot get anything from them.

Kandoni is now getting quite agitated, as he realizes that he has not only led the patriarch’s guests astray, he may even have led them into serious danger. He recommends returning to Akshir.

On a hill overlooking the village, they spy the overgrown tower of an old ruined palace, its stonework glinting in the afternoon sun.

The ruined palace

Investigating, they make their way up a shaded path until they pass between two cracked stone gate-posts into a courtyard full of long grass. Creepers cascade over the toppled blocks of the wall. On the other side of the courtyard they see the twisting roots and limbs of a tree which has grown right around the entrance of the building, enclosing it like bindings around a gaping wound.

A figure emerges from under the foliage of the tree: a thickset man with short greying hair. He waves his arms in greeting.

The antiquarian

The man gives his name as Endu Pocoli, a treasure hunter (though he uses the term historian) originally from Analika. He has spent almost a year in these ruins searching for the tomb of Prince Gali, a local ruler some six hundred years ago whose palace this once was.

By now it is getting on for sunset. Endu ushers them inside and sets out bowls of honey by the gateposts. If asked about this, he says it is for "the wild creatures". Astute characters (Psychic Talent roll) may notice that he is quite nervous about getting this ritual completed before nightfall.

They sit around Endu’s campfire, inside the ruined shell of the palace, and he explains that he has been a treasure hunter (the true description of his job comes out as the wine flows) since leaving the Selentine navy. A fortune-teller told him that this was the year he would make his fortune. Since he had bought a treasure map from a stall-holder in Teleos, Endu decided that fate was on his side. "But now the year is almost up," he bemoans, "and I have explored the underground rivers beneath these ruins again and again. It is a maze! How could one ever hope to find the route to where the prince lies buried with his treasure? Poor Endu! To think I would end my days sculling in the foul mud instead of hauling the canvas at sea, where I was happy."

Suddenly he looks up, eyes narrowing, the wine dribbling from his mouth as he listens in fear. From outside, they hear a ghastly slobbering coming from by the gateposts.

Heads up

Intrepid characters who investigate will discover a number of disembodied heads, fifteen in all, moving in long eerie bounds like bouncing balloons. They are tittering horribly as they lap at the honey.

The heads cannot (or will not) enter the palace, but they will attack anyone who ventures into the courtyard. The grass is so long that it obscures vision (-1 to all the characters’ dice rolls), but this doesn't seem to bother the heads one bit.


Bite (d10, 3)
Armour Factor 2 (7 vs nonmagical weapons)
Movement: flying – 25m
Health Points 7
Rank-equivalent: 6th

When a head bites, it then latches on to chew its victim. This has two effects. First, the victim loses 1HP every round regardless of armour (the head finds a weak link to gnaw at). Second, each head inflicts increasing encumbrance: the first causes -1 off ATTACK, DEFENCE and EVASION; the second causes -2; the third -4, etc. (Totals are: one head = -1, two heads = -3, three heads = -7, four heads = -15.) When EVASION reaches 0 you cannot move.

Another way to deal with the heads would be to go down to the village and destroy their bodies. If the bodies are not destroyed, the heads will regenerate all damage within an hour and will then pursue.

(A player who has read the Dragon Warriors rulebooks may well say, "Oh, those must be some subspecies of death's-head." But of course, a statement like that is entirely meaningless in the world of Legend.)

A tale of long ago

Endu explains how the heads come three nights a month, at the time of the full moon.

"I heard the tale off a woodcutter," he says. "Apparently, long ago, there were rebels against Prince Gali in these hills. They caused a great deal of trouble for him, ambushing his supplies as they went through the woods, and always retreating into the undergrowth when his soldiers were sent out. But finally he caught the rebels by a ruse and had them brought to within sight of his palace, and there he had them buried in the ground up to their necks, so that sun and rain beat down upon their unprotected heads. Finally they died – some by thirst or starvation, others by exposure, others gnawed by wild animals – forced to face the palace of the hated despot until the end. Afterwards the heads were cut off and cast into an open grave outside of the palace gates. But there is one more thing to relate. A serving girl of Gali's court had crept out on the first night, it is said, while Gali and his warriors celebrated their triumph; and she took a bowl of honey for each of the rebels. So it is that one can appease the heads by setting out bowls of honey at the palace gates."

Part 2 on Wednesday.


  1. Hi Dave (Or should I say Mr. Morris),

    Brand new follower of your blog from Montreal, Canada. I have just come across it interestingly enough while.....checking google for a picture of Mr Thomson! (which I did NOT find) The reason for such a peculiar search was that I have started a topic recently on a french gamebooks messageboard (I am french canadian) about you, Jamie, Mark and Oliver and the only one of you that I could find more info about and pictures of was you! (I found an interview you gave to some italian fan which was available in english and italian and i've posted a resume of your interview for my fellow french speakers who don't read either those languages) It might seem unfair to lump you all in the same thread together as I am aware you are distinct authors with distinct styles who have worked on distinct projects(not all of which gamebooks) but I believe a lot of gamebook fanatics when they think of one of you guys' names think of the others (At least I know you are pals so it's not bound to be insulting I imagine...) and as a whole you are responsible for my favorite gamebook series. I own most of your gamebooks as well as Mr Thomson's (still missing the last two Falcon)and my no1 favorite series of all-time is Blood Sword. Though having just in the last month found out about Fabled Lands and considering it sounds like what i've been looking for in a GB all my life...maybe that's about to change. You are like the beatles of gamebooks!

    In any case, I am delighted (it might sound like a strong word but truly I am) to have found this blog and I am already extremely interested by the few entries I have read. I especially liked the never-were FF gamebooks resumes, which I plan on also translating in french on that forum I mentionned since the resume of your interview I posted was met with a lot of enthusiasm. In the interview you mentionned you still ran rpg sessions monthly with Mark Smith (apparently AKA Min) and Jamie and some people reacted by saying they'd love to take part in those as we can all imagine the story, situations and overall scenarios must be top-notch.

    As for this particular entry, well I myself was never much of an hardcore pen-and-paper rpg player (hard to find people to play with in the small town I was from and besides i'm the solitary kind) but the one I played the most was by far Dragon Warriors (I still have all the rule books) so it's really interesting to see you post old scenarios for it too. Maybe I will contact my brother about this and we can resume playing and adapt those scenario resumes! (I am not sure our characters are still around though being that I haven't played in at least 15 years...well, you know, elaborate PC rpgs happened and all...)

    Anyway in closing this rather long winded and I hope not too gushing comment, the second gamebook I have ever owned was Castle of Lost Souls (that would have been back in 1987 or 88 I think) and so i feel (not to make you feel old but all the same :-p) like i've grown up reading you and it is truly an honor to get to write to you on your blog and be able to read you (even in a non-GB format) again.

    I have a question concerning this last gamebook I've mentionned actually...Who was/is Yve Newnham? (who is also listed on the cover as author and who I've never read or heard anything from before or since) and did he/she (not clear with the this like Ivy, Eve or the french Yves?) edit the book or what? and while i'm in question you know at all whatever happened to Burno Elletori? because his covers for the Golden Dragon series were simply fantastic (and it's truly a shame about the lame american versions..)

    Thank you!

  2. Salut "Milk" (Lait ?)
    Quelle est l'adresse de ton site, que j'y jette un oeil ? Je crois posséder en version électronique les deux derniers de Falcon (en anglais)"the Dying Sun" & "at the end of time". Si ça t'intéresse, écris-moi:

  3. Hi Milk - "the Beatles of gamebooks", eh? Well, thank you indeed, sir - there's no higher praise! Having played Blood Sword, you have a pretty good idea what our role-playing sessions are like, as most of the significant characters in that series are based on characters we have played in our RPG sessions.

    Heart of Ice (available as a PDF, see sidebar) features two of Min's characters (Kyle Boche is his devious sorcerer Ibash; Hal Shandor is his commanding soldier Tlangten), one of mine (Chaim Golgoth), one of Oliver's (Vajra Singh was based on his character Ssomu), plus several other player-characters, and the scenario was one we ran over several months.

    Yve (short for Yvonne) Newnham was my girlfriend at the time and she co-plotted The Castle of Lost Souls with me when it originally appeared (in much simpler form) in White Dwarf magazine.

    I don't know what became of Bruno Elletori - he did a bunch of great covers in the 1980s and then dropped out of sight. He probably went off to work in movies or advertising. As for those US covers of Golden Dragon... the less said the better!

    As for a photo of Jamie, just Google "Sontaran General Staal" and you'll get a pretty good idea ;)

  4. Comments today seem to be falling through the cracks in Blogger's system. I'm going to have a last try at getting under the hood and fixing it, failing that maybe normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I hope so!

  5. Apparently, the problem is over... Hmmm, Dave, you shouldn't have evoked "Ice of Heart" (despite its quality): this made Blogger behave like Gaia !

  6. First of all I'm so sorry about the multiple comments. It kept bringing me to a failed page and no matter how often I refreshed I didnt see any comments. Apparently, as I see, this is not a problem only I experienced. I tried at different intervals during the day and still got the same results until it finally worked when I tried leaving a comment without logging into my google account (well I guess the others worked as well but didn't show up until hours later, whereas this one shown right away). And it seems right now I cannot delete these comments as there is not the usual trash can that appears next to it even though I'm logged in. Hopefully you can delete these extra comments from your own blog. Sorry about that.

    I had a good intuition about Castle of lost souls, I thought it might have been something of the like though I'd never have dared presume (memories of ex-girlfriends are usually better left alone!)

    It's a shame about Elletori but I guess you've got to go where the food money is. I feel he could have made a good career doing fantasy art or even oil-painted graphic novels like Vicente Segrelles. Crypt of the Vampire and Castle of Lost souls really stand out, so much they almost scared me as a kid!

    I'm glad to learn this about Heart of Ice, I'm looking forward to reading it and coming across those characters! I have just very recently acquired this book online (so recently i haven't even received it yet. You have to be willing to pay the price, it's not ridiculously expensive like some other GB but it was still a good 30 canadian bucks which is about what? 20 GBP?) I have known about the pdf version and while it is a great initiative, I like to have the thing in my hands. (Twist of fate however is nearly unfindable, You should make it available online too!) For Fabled Lands, considering the rarity and prices, I will definitely go for the online version. I just need to find the time (I already have trouble explaining to my gf why I keep buying new gamebooks when so many of them I haven't read yet! Maybe they'll be a retirement home hobby....)

    As for the Jamie Thomson pic, I am a huge Doctor Who fan (albeit a belated one, no I did not get into it until the Christopher Eccleston series, though I do remember seeing Jon Pertwee episodes on telly as a kid, obviously it wasn't popular here like in the UK) so I don't need to google for a pic....but it seems a rather harsh comparison! Speaking of Dr Who, Have you ever read the Doctor Who gamebooks? I've been interested though I doubt if they're very good. I can see a very big Doctor Who influence anyway in Jamie and Mark's Falcon series....well, the term Time Lord for one! Maybe they should have been the ones writing the Doctor Who gamebooks.....

  7. The Bloggerbot has had a right old strop today. It didn't even want me deleting the excess comments. Hopefully it's calmed down now.

    Milk, I don't know about Twist of Fate appearing online. Heart of Ice only appears thanks to the hard work of Paul Mason, who put it into interactive PDF format. However, there is the distinct possibility that it might be showing up in app form before too long.

    As for old girlfriends... best if I say nothing, my wife is home now :)

  8. Nevermind what I said about the comments, the trash can icon did finally show up after this last comment posted and I managed to delete those pesky extra ones.

    Cafaristeir: You already know the site, you're a member there already! You've recently told me I could find the Joe Dever Freeway Warrior books on projectaon which I thank you for but I already knew that. I like to have the physical thing in my hands. I have just acquired Slaughter Mountain Run though I will say the last two of this series are hard to find and expensive so I might yet get them off projectaon.

    Speaking of Dever and this is adressed to Dave, I particualry agreed with what you said in the italian interview I mentionned when you related how Dever once said to you he liked to have a moral element in his works and took as an example this part in one of his books where if you didn't save kids from slavery, a few paragraph laters you had to face an unkillable demon. And you answered it wasn't morality at all but economics and that you can't say it's a moral choice if you sway the player to choose the "good" moral choice through punishment. I like Lone Wolf well enough but I truly wish I would get to make my own moral choices and choose my own personality and that stands for any gamebooks. You then said it was the idea behind starting Blood Sword and right then I KNEW why you were my favorite gamebook author. I have felt this way for years and I am glad there are finally video games rpgs that give you the option to not necessarily be pure and noble hearted which gets boring fast...I spend enough time in "real life" trying to be pure and noble hearted, it's a lot of work and can be terribly tiring. When I roleplay I'd like the option to be something else.

    I wonder though if there might not have been a slight desire to..educate for some gamebook authors. I mean even if most series can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, back then I think the demographics were still late childhood/teens and maybe there was a responsability (possibly partly unconscious) to instill some sense of "good" morality into the readers. Maybe.

    Anyway I used to play Blood Sword as a despicable trickster (who in french is actually identified as plainly a thief) but the last time I did them as an Enchanter (I'm not normally a magic character type) and I had too much fun so I think I'll do the same next time (speaking of which i'm about due for another go at's been some years!)

    Last second edit: By the time I was done writing this a new comment shown up and I just want to say I'll definitely be on the lookout for an eventual Twist of Fate in app form! That would be terrific. And yeah, comments issue fixed.

  9. En ce qui concerne les gamebooks autrefois hébergés sur the Home of the Underdogs (les livres qui ne sont plus imprimés, y compris Freeway Warrior), tu peux les télécharger en torrent ici:
    Sur ce site (, dans la section "médieval fantastique", tu peux avoir les Terres de Légende et l'Epée de Légende en français; il te suffit de t'enregistrer sur le forum.