Insignificant Little Vermin

A gamebook! And a smoothly presented one, at that, with black text and images scroll continuously down a white background. That's really nice when you want to go back and check something from earlier in the story. Combat and matters of chance are handled with this thing that looks a bit like the face of a slot machine, with a roll of three or more heart icons (out of five) required for success. Not bad, though I note that the combat text, being generated as a result of multiple characters acting at once, can sometimes get a little confused.

Our stats are ... kind of basic, though. We have a face icon representing our health, and I'm not sure whether we started out at midway-healthy (the face icon has a neutral, straight-mouthed expression) or at full health, nor do I have any idea how much damage I can take. But perhaps that's part of the aesthetic: the idea that a wound is a wound and health isn't really a matter of numbers. Stamina is, though: but that seems to represent, in a way, luck rather than endurance, in that each point of stamina may be used to reroll a failure. There are no other stats governing our prowess or abilities, which seems a bit odd for a roleplaying gamebook.

The story we're playing here is fairly generic D&D fantasy: we're a human slave in an orc stronghold, and one fine day we find ourselves facing a single orc slaver with a new slave who still has her spirit intact. From here, we must defeat the slaver, maybe throw a spanner in the works of the orcish war machine, fight a few orcs along the way, and escape.

I found the writing to be very engaging and a pleasure to read, though the plot itself doesn't seem all that special yet. There's some stuff about us having a connection with some entity called "The Dead Prince", whom the orcs worship, but that seems to be mostly background for now. I get the sense that, though the story arc of our hero's escape may be complete, it is only the beginning of a much large story arc. I also get the sense that this is, in part, a demo for the author's gamebook system, which isn't a bad thing. Every system needs a proof of concept to begin with, and the best proofs of concept are the products that work.

So the story is nothing new, but it's well done, and the system is shiny and pretty. It's bog-standard bacon-and-eggs, but it's bacon-and-eggs done by a world-class chef. You can tell by the plating. The coffee may be simple filtered coffee--none of your espressos or lattes or what-have-you--but the beans are freshly ground and richly flavoured, and maybe that's all that matters.