Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kingdom of Loathing The Home Game 3: Past As Prologue

It's been a while. In fact, I had to hustle to come up with this entry as I found that I was on the verge of going a whole month without any activity here. That simply wouldn't do! I hadn't been as idle as it may appear -- a partially-converted gamebook looks like 0% even when it's at 95%, as it doesn't go "live" until I reach 100% and I don't make status report postings generally speaking... but the piece I'd been working with, another TADS programming tutorial, was giving me problems with just a few too many variable flags to comfortably keep track of. It's still chunking its way down the pipe, but will require more time to fully work through than I originally allotted to it.

This piece, on the other hand, was quite straightforward. To recap: the big brains behind the splendidly silly browser-based MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing visit the San Diego Comic-Con every year, and promote their game with a stylistically-similar but basically unrelated gamebook-'zine. The laid-out print version is distributed as a PDF, then home readers can print out a copy for themselves and play along. I like to cut out the "print out a copy" step, however, and yield a wholly computer-playable version that is, admittedly, harder to take into the tub for your evening soak. A superfan already converted the first of this strange series to HTML; I took on #2 from 2007 last year during my wacky November spree and so here we have number three from 2008. I always figured that I could fall back on one per year and as long as they kept making a new one every year I'd never catch up and exhaust this particular vein. However, as best as I can tell, they did indeed stop making them, alas, since for folks who aren't even in the gamebook business these comical entries are pretty well-done. (If you're interested in getting the original PDF, you can find it there.)

There are probably lots of other, erhm, contemporary works I should be giving mad props to here, but I'm scattered enough these days I don't have a great deal to recommend. I discovered Zoya Street earlier today, and their romantic you is pretty sweet. There's not really much point in tabulating hot new Twine releases since they're coming so fast and furious these days! I never did mention my exhaustive post-mortem of my own Twine "game" (I did announce it here, but the primary function of this blog isn't the tootling of my own horn) --- exhaustive is the word, its unpacking is almost certainly vastly more extensive than the total contents of the actual game. That marks the establishment of another blog where I'll discuss my game development experiences and design ideas. Just what this new dad needs: more projects. Maybe I can update each blog quarterly! In any case, here's our main attraction, the third Kingdom of Loathing gamebook:

. . .
An Adventurer Is You!
The Home Game* version of
Episode 3: Past as Prologue
*Or, more likely, The While You're Standing In Some Line At Comic-Con Game. We basically had that discussion before, though.
Now with mostly readable font-size!
(In case you left your magnifying glass at home.)
Long ago, in the ancient history of the small continent known as Loathing, life was not nearly as pleasant as it is today. Wild, untamed jungle spread from the northern coast to the savannah of The Nearby Plains (which in those days were just called "The Plains", because there really wasn't much of anything for them to be near to, except maybe the jungle, which doesn't count). Primitive tribes of goblins and gnolls warred amidst the ruins of ancient civilizations
even ancienter than the ancient times we're talking about (though of course they were considered quite contemporary and modern then), and in the darkness of night, when the constant jungle war-drums finally stopped so the drummer could take a break and get something to eat, and all the animals and birds were silent, strange and unearthly sounds could sometimes be faintly heard among the primitive stonework and grotesque statues of the long-forgotten past.
. . .
Section 1:
Oh no! You have walked into the slavering fangs of a lurking grue! (And by 'you', I mean Krakrox.) Yes, even though you were going back. Come on, you had plenty of warning.
. . .
Section 2:
Night had fallen by the time Krakrox arrived at the large clearing containing the goblin camp. The air was still, the silence broken only by the soft whirring of jungle insects and the crackling of the camp's bonfires. The firelight cast flickering shadows across the scene, alternately concealing and illuminating the goblins' gruesome decorations: skulls long-ancient, and severed heads considerably less so -- some of which once belonged to men that Krakrox had known from Seaside Camp. He gritted his teeth in anger -- some of those men had owed him money. Instead, there would be hell to pay.
The first step, Krakrox reasoned, was to destroy the goblin chieftain. Without their leader, the other goblins' morale would fall like a house of dominoes. They would be easy prey. Then perhaps this... rumor that Ralph had spoken of could be investigated.
. . .
Section 3:
Holding aloft the glowing sphere, Krakrox strode down the corridor. Shadows fled hissing at the touch of the golden light, and their passage was unimpeded; soon they reached the end of the hall, and faced a massive ironbound door, its surface carved into the hideous leering visage of a clown.
"I'm guessing this is the place," said Krakrox.
"How shall we proceed?" Pancetta asked. "Do you think we can sneak in?"
"Sneak?" Krakrox growled. "Screw that." He kicked the door in with a thundering CRASH and strode inside.
. . .
Section 4:

 "Halt! Who goes there?"
"Puddin' Tame," came the answering growl.
"Oh, it's you, Krakrox. Come on through."
The guard pulled the log gate open, and the barbarian entered the encampment with a terse nod. "Did you have any trouble finding that goblin raiding party that attacked us in the night?" asked the guard. "Honestly, ever since we, a ragtag band of adventurers, explorers, and mercenaries, arrived on this savage continent which we have named Loathing because that's how terrible it is, we've had nothing but trouble from those goblins, and urk."
"When I want exposition," growled Krakrox, lifting the guard up by his collar, "I'll ask for it."
"Sorry," squeaked the guard, "I just thought, you know, with the in medias res opening and all... sorry, sorry." Krakrox dropped him back onto his feet and, grumbling, made his way to the center of the camp and knocked at the flap of the commander's tent.
Thwap, thwap.
"Come in," came the answer.
. . .
Section 5:
"No," growled Krakrox, shaking his head. "That's the way I came in. We'll not be going that way."
"Why not?" asked Pancetta.
"Firstly, because it was one of the most ridiculous mazes I've ever been in, and I'm not going through that again, and secondly, because I haven't killed the boss yet, and there's no point leaving until I have. Unlike most games of this sort, I'm on a schedule, and don't have time to go off grinding experience and doing a million pointless side-quests before coming back to slay the Great Evil that has sat and waited patiently until I showed up."
"Well, all right," Pancetta shrugged. "I guess we'll go the other way, then."
. . .
Section 6:
Up in the guard tower, the three goblins were leaning on their spears and idly passing the time.
"I spy with my little eye," said one, "something that begin with J."
"You win again," the goblin sighed.
"Hey," the third goblin said, suddenly alert. "You hear noise?"
"What noise?"
"Sort of 'twang' sort of noise."
The goblins listened intently.
"...No. But I hear kind of 'aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAA-' oof!"
Krakrox leapt up from where the goblin had cushioned his landing and quickly dispatched the other two before they could recover their wits. The first one managed to get back on his feet just in time to lose his head.
The barbarian observed the goblin camp intently for a moment, until he was certain that the altercation had not been noticed, then nodded grimly and climbed down the ladder.
. . .
Section 7:

Krakrox prowled silently through the jungle foliage, and crouched at the edge of the clearing where the goblins' hideous temple stood. It appeared to be formed of a single massive stone, shaped by the winds and rains of countless eons into the form of a grotesque, leering clown head. Only the mouth seemed worked by hand, and even that looked to have been carved millennia ago; a black, menacing cave that doubtlessly lead into a gigantic maze of catacombs beneath the earth.
At the front of the temple stood a huge crowd of goblins in dark hooded robes, chanting ancient words that Krakrox felt echo in his very bones, although he knew not their meanings. On a battlefield scale, there were not many of them -- two or three hundred at most -- but that would be quite sufficient to raze Seaside Camp to the ground, particularly if they received some sort of aid from the evil master of this place.
. . .
Section 7:
Krakrox prowled silently through the jungle foliage, and crouched at the edge of the clearing where the goblins' hideous temple stood. It appeared to be formed of a single massive stone, shaped by the winds and rains of countless eons into the form of a grotesque, leering clown head. Only the mouth seemed worked by hand, and even that looked to have been carved millennia ago; a black, menacing cave that doubtlessly lead into a gigantic maze of catacombs beneath the earth.
At the front of the temple stood a huge crowd of goblins in dark hooded robes, chanting ancient words that Krakrox felt echo in his very bones, although he knew not their meanings. On a battlefield scale, there were not many of them -- two or three hundred at most -- but that would be quite sufficient to raze Seaside Camp to the ground, particularly if they received some sort of aid from the evil master of this place.
. . .
Section 8:
Krakrox regarded the small collection of tents and huts that made up Seaside Camp. If a proper life could be carved out of this merciless jungle, perhaps one day more people would arrive and establish a proper colony, but for now these were men living on the edge, unable to stop themselves from falling. The situation was undeniably complicated and aggravating, but Krakrox refused to let it get to him. There was time enough to gather supplies, and then he must be on his way.
Finally, a choice! Don't you just hate those long unskippable cutscenes? Anyway, choose a tent:
. . .
Section 9:
The temple proved to be a single large room, hewn from the interior of the giant clown head-shaped rock. At the far side of the room was a large stone altar, stained black from what must have been thousands of years worth of sacrifices. The stone walls had been carved to depict clowns in a variety of grotesque activities -- the ones that Krakrox was able to decipher were unfit to describe in a family publication.
In the center of the room was a large spiral staircase that descended into the earth. From it rose the combined stench of greasepaint, cotton-candy, stale sweat, and despair -- the smell of clowns.
Steeling his teeth and gritting his nerves, Krakrox cautiously descended the staircase, sword at the ready.
. . .
Section 10:
Krakrox lifted the flap and entered the tent of Ralph, the commander of Seaside Camp, who was standing over a table inspecting some rough maps of the area.
"Ah, Krakrox. Were you able to track down the invaders?"
"I was," Krakrox replied. "Red Nose Tribe, just like the others." He tossed the severed head onto the table with a thump.
"Gah! I would have taken your word for it, you know." Ralph pushed the head aside with disgust. "Blood all over my maps, honestly," he muttered, then sighed. "We've lost too many men to these attacks. We need to do something about these Red Noses immediately, before the entire expedition is lost. All the other goblin tribes have been willing to trade with us, or at least leave us alone so long as we did the same for them, but the Red Noses are bloodthirsty and relentless." Ralph looked up from his maps. "Krakrox, I've got another mission for you. I warn you though, it's a dangerous one."
"I laugh at danger," growled Krakrox.
"I've certainly never seen you laugh at anything else," Ralph replied. "The Red Noses are running us ragged, sniffing for our weak spot. There's not any option for us but to wipe them out, exterminate them entirely."
"I'll do it."
"Bless you, Krakrox, you're the bravest man I've ever known. But there's something I haven't told you that makes this mission particularly dangerous, and for the good of camp morale I must keep it a secret from everyone but the man I employ on this task. Are you sure you want to accept what may well be a suicide mission?"
  • Accept the mission -- go to Section 38.
  • Refuse the mission -- Put the book down and find something else to do.
. . .
Section 11:
The goblins were momentarily stunned by the death of their champion, but they would not be long in recovering. Thinking quickly, the barbarian decided on his best course of action:
. . .
Section 12:
"Speak, wretch! Tell me of this foul master of yours, else I kill you where you stand!"
"Certainly! I can't wait to see your face when you learn exactly what you're up against, pathetic human! My master has many names: The White Face, and The Red Nose! He That Will Bite You and Throw You in the Basement! I serve the Wielder of the Seltzer Bottle of Torment and the Thrower of the Cream Pie of Despair!"
"Blog's tonsils," gasped Krakrox, the color draining from his face.
"I see you know of whom I speak, oaf!" The goblin was grinning maniacally and practically shrieking with evil glee. "The Long Shoe! The Red Skeleton! Klarazabel and Y'mt K'lii! My lord and master is Beelzebozo, the Clown Prince of Darkness, and you are well and truly boned!"
"Good grief man, take a pill," Krakrox muttered.
. . .
Section 13:
Krakrox stepped out of the room, with Pancetta close behind.
"Which way do we go?" she asked, looking up and down the hallway.
. . .
Section 14:
"Hell no," Krakrox growled. "Maybe you didn't have to navigate that stupid maze due to booklet length restrictions, but I did, and I'll be damned if I'm going back."
. . .
Section 15:
Just then, a goblin (who by sheer coincidence was large and muscular enough that his robe would fit Krakrox) separated from the crowd and started walking towards the barbarian's hiding place.
"You going to bathroom?" one of the other goblins called after him.
"No," he replied, "just gonna stand over here by these bushes for a minute. No particular reason."
"What a stroke of luck!" Krakrox thought to himself.
. . .
Section 16:
A young man in gleaming chrome armor entered the tent and saluted, grinning. Ralph turned to Krakrox. "This is Marvin. He'll be accompanying you on your mission."
"It's a real honor, Mister Krakrox sir!" said the youth, grabbing the barbarian's hand in an enthusiastic handshake. "Everyone in the camp is talking about what an amazing warrior you are! I can't believe I get to help out someone as famous as you on my very first mission! Gosh, just wait 'til I write my fiancée back home and tell her the news! Say, did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Conurrch!"
"You stabbed Marvin in the face!" Ralph shouted. "Why the hell did you do that?"
"To save time," Krakrox growled. "Now you can bury him right here, instead of me having to do it out in the jungle."
Ralph nudged the body with his foot, then looked at Krakrox enquiringly. "Would you actually have buried him?"
"I would have told you I did."
Ralph sighed. "Well, you have your orders. Make your preparations, and then get going. There's little time to lose."
Krakrox nodded grimly and strode out of the tent.
. . .
Section 17:
Krakrox handed Pancetta the strange glass sphere. "Will this do?"
She turned it over and looked at the base. "Yes, this will do fine." She pried the cork out of it and poured the water out onto the ground. "Now then, you'll, um... you'll have to turn your back and not look."
Krakrox narrowed his eyes. "I've not turned my back on a woman since my prom night, and I don't intend to start now." Pancetta was aghast. "I can't do it if you're looking!"
"Why not?"
"It's... it's a very secret ritual. Outsiders can't be permitted to view it. Seriously."
"Oh very well," Krakrox growled, turning
around. "Just be quick about it."
There was a brief pause, then a sound of pouring liquid. After a minute, Pancetta tapped Krakrox on the shoulder. "All right, I'm finished." She handed him the glass sphere -- it had been filled with a glowing golden fluid, which radiated a bright, warm light reminiscent of a summer afternoon.
"How did you do that?" Krakrox asked, puzzled. "Did you have the ingredients of this strange potion in your pockets? Or is this some form of liquid-seeming spiritual energy?" He shook the globe and watched the golden light ripple and splash within it.
Pancetta gave him a sideways look, and said "Let's just say that we elves are a very, very magical race of people, and leave it at that."
. . .
Section 18:
"You know," mused Krakrox, "You're rather better-spoken than the rest of the goblins."
The chieftain shrugged. "I took a correspondence course."
. . .
Section 19:

Man, dead already, and the story hasn't even started yet. You didn't even get to find out the main character's name! Kind of an ill omen, wouldn't you say?
  • Well, look at it this way: at least you won't lose much time by starting over.
. . .
Section 20:
The barbarian hunkered down and began methodically looting the bodies of the goblins, pocketing a few handfuls of the dried beans that they appeared to use as currency. One of the goblins was carrying several slabs of raw meat for some reason, which the barbarian sniffed at and then threw away as unfit for consumption.
Inspecting the goblins' war-paint, the warrior noted without surprise that all their noses were painted bright red. Picking up one of the severed heads with a satisfied grunt, he headed back into the jungle.
. . .
Section 21:
"Your champion is defeated," growled the barbarian. "Stand aside, and I shall permit the rest of you to keep your lives."
One of the goblins laughed raucously. "Is that joke? You never kill us, human! There are many of us, and one of you! We have swords, and you have nothurrk!"
"Now I have a sword as well," said the barbarian, taking it from the goblin's lifeless hand. This was a definite improvement, but it seemed to be the furthest that talking would get him.
. . .
Section 22:
Looks like Krakrox died, and that's sort of a problem, considering that this is a historical narrative and all. I mean, we already know how Krakrox died -- he died from injuries resulting from a drunken brawl with a tavern wench's boyfriend at the age of seventy-three (the handbrake on his wheelchair broke from running over the guy's head too many times, and he accidentally rolled off a cliff on the way home).
I guess you'll have to go back and try again. You've probably still got your finger on the last choice anyway, haven't you? Cheater.
. . .
Section 22:
Looks like Krakrox died, and that's sort of a problem, considering that this is a historical narrative and all. I mean, we already know how Krakrox died -- he died from injuries resulting from a drunken brawl with a tavern wench's boyfriend at the age of seventy-three (the handbrake on his wheelchair broke from running over the guy's head too many times, and he accidentally rolled off a cliff on the way home).
I guess you'll have to go back and try again. You've probably still got your finger on the last choice anyway, haven't you? Cheater.
. . .
Section 22:
Looks like Krakrox died, and that's sort of a problem, considering that this is a historical narrative and all. I mean, we already know how Krakrox died -- he died from injuries resulting from a drunken brawl with a tavern wench's boyfriend at the age of seventy-three (the handbrake on his wheelchair broke from running over the guy's head too many times, and he accidentally rolled off a cliff on the way home).
I guess you'll have to go back and try again. You've probably still got your finger on the last choice anyway, haven't you? Cheater.
. . .
Section 22:
Looks like Krakrox died, and that's sort of a problem, considering that this is a historical narrative and all. I mean, we already know how Krakrox died -- he died from injuries resulting from a drunken brawl with a tavern wench's boyfriend at the age of seventy-three (the handbrake on his wheelchair broke from running over the guy's head too many times, and he accidentally rolled off a cliff on the way home).
I guess you'll have to go back and try again. You've probably still got your finger on the last choice anyway, haven't you? Cheater.
. . .
Section 22:
Looks like Krakrox died, and that's sort of a problem, considering that this is a historical narrative and all. I mean, we already know how Krakrox died -- he died from injuries resulting from a drunken brawl with a tavern wench's boyfriend at the age of seventy-three (the handbrake on his wheelchair broke from running over the guy's head too many times, and he accidentally rolled off a cliff on the way home).
I guess you'll have to go back and try again. You've probably still got your finger on the last choice anyway, haven't you? Cheater.
. . .
Section 22:
Looks like Krakrox died, and that's sort of a problem, considering that this is a historical narrative and all. I mean, we already know how Krakrox died -- he died from injuries resulting from a drunken brawl with a tavern wench's boyfriend at the age of seventy-three (the handbrake on his wheelchair broke from running over the guy's head too many times, and he accidentally rolled off a cliff on the way home).
I guess you'll have to go back and try again. You've probably still got your finger on the last choice anyway, haven't you? Cheater.
. . .
Section 23:
The best way to deal with the guards, Krakrox reasoned, would be to somehow trick them into letting him into the tower without raising the alarm. Then he could dispatch them quickly and quietly.
The question was: how?
. . .
Section 24:
Krakrox strode up the corridor with Pancetta following close behind. "Mind you don't step on the obvious pressure-plate in the floor," he said.
There was an audible click, and Krakrox sighed heavily. He grabbed the girl by the waist and dove forward as a stone block plummeted from the ceiling, crashing to the ground just behind them and sealing off the passageway.
Pancetta gave an embarrassed cough as she got to her feet and brushed the dust from her jacket. "Oh, that pressure-plate." She inspected the stone block and frowned worriedly. "How are we going to move this?" she asked.
"We aren't. After I've destroyed the Clownlord, we'll either find another route out of here, or the block will have mysteriously disappeared, clearing the path."
"How can you be so sure?"
"That's just how these things work," he grumbled. "Don't ask me to make sense of it for you."
. . .
Section 25:
Krakrox strode towards the tanner's tent, which was situated as far as possible from the rest of the encampment due to the ever-present stench. The tanner, who by sheer coincidence was named Tanner, looked up as the barbarian entered.
"Oh, hello, Krakrox. If your loincloth needs patching, I've told you before, you'll have to do it yourself. I'm not touching..."
"What in Blog's name is that?" Krakrox exclaimed, pointing at Tanner's workbench.
"Oh, this? Well, Halloween's not too far off, so I thought I'd make a goblin costume.
Skinned one of their faces for a mask." He held the gray-green hunk of leather up in front of his face to demonstrate. "Booga booga!"
"That may well be the grisliest thing I've ever seen," remarked Krakrox, "and I've seen a few."
"Yeah, good isn't it?" Tanner grinned.
Krakrox's brow furrowed as he considered the gruesome object, and drummed his fingers on the counter-top in thought. "...I would like to borrow this... mask," he eventually declared.
"Sure, no problem," said Tanner. "Lots more where that came from. Got some of their armor over there in the corner, too."
Krakrox picked out some goblin armor that looked like it might fit him, and tossed it in a sack which he slung over one shoulder.
. . .
Section 26:

Observing the camp, Krakrox frowned. It was too quiet. There were no signs of activity that he could see, apart from the tall wooden watchtower at the perimeter, in which three goblins stood peering out into the darkness, their dark eyes glittering as they caught the torchlight. They would have to be dealt with first, lest they rouse the rest of the camp. But how?
. . .
Section 27:
Silently and cautiously, Krakrox prowled through the bushes to the other side of the clearing, then crept up to the tremendous stone clown head. It seemed that the only entrance was at the front, so he sidled along the stone wall, keeping to the shadows.
Peeking carefully around the corner, he saw that the crowd of goblins were all facing the temple entrance, listening raptly to a witch doctor or some sort of cult leader, who was ranting about the power of the Clownlord and how the human settlement would surely be destroyed.
This whole 'sneak in unnoticed' thing was going to be tricky.
. . .
Section 28:
It's possible that Krakrox has already been in this room. Did he already fight a bunch of evil things and find a certain spherical object?
  • No, Krakrox has not yet fought the unspecified things and won the unspecified prize: Go to Section 53.
  • Otherwise, just pretend I wrote an elaborate (and funny) bit of text that sums up as "There's nothing new in here," and go back to Section 70.
. . .
Section 29:
The barbarian narrowed his eyes and pointed into the distance. "Am I deceived by some foul witchery, or does that monkey have three heads?"
As the goblins turned to look, he bolted in the other direction and charged into the dense jungle foliage. The shouts of his pursuers spurred him on as he sprinted through the underbrush, cursing his cowardice but recognizing that sometimes discretion is indeed the better part of valor, or at least of keeping his head, which he considered to be one of the better parts of him.
Unfortunately, the barbarian had failed to take into account the fact that the goblins knew this part of the jungle far better than he did. More specifically, they knew where they had dug all those pits with the pointy sticks at the bottom, and he did not. He discovered this fact just after falling into one, and just before being impaled on a lot of pointy sticks, which brings our story to a rather abrupt conclusion.
. . .
Section 30:
The sun shone down through the jungle canopy, illuminating a small clearing. A goblin raiding party, their hide armor decorated with the bones of their enemies, circled the two bare-handed combatants, rattling their spears and crude bronze swords while jeering in their harsh, guttural tongue.
Sweat glistened on the muscles of the northern barbarian, naked save for his leather loincloth and boots, his straight black hair framing ice-blue eyes that narrowed as he sized up his opponent, the largest of the goblin crew.
"Ha!" grunted the goblin. "You think you beat me, human? I kill you for honor of our gods! Then we put your head on pointy stick and twist your guts into funny animal shapes to amuse our children!" The two warriors slowly circled each other, searching for an opening to attack.
The goblin paused. "Say, anyone ever tell you, you look just like Conurrk!"
As the goblin slumped to the ground, his neck broken, the barbarian spat on the corpse. "Never compare me to that pansy," he growled.
. . .
Section 31:
It is pitch dark (and by 'dark' I mean 'black'). You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
. . .
Section 32:
When the goblin got within striking distance, Krakrox pounced without warning, cleanly snapping his neck and dragging the body into the bushes. Soon the barbarian was strolling nonchalantly up to the back of the crowd, his form and visage concealed by the voluminous hooded robe which, unfortunately, stank of cabbage. Can't have everything, I guess.
. . .
Section 33:
The barbarian steeled his gaze as he observed the goblins surrounding him in their hide armor and war-paint (which, on a few of them, consisted largely of eye-shadow and rouge, but discrimination based on sexual proclivities hadn't been invented yet), then suddenly wheeled around and hacked off the head of a goblin standing behind him. The goblins were rather startled by this, particularly the one whose head had been cut off, and the warrior seized the opportunity to kill several more of them before they could react. The remaining goblins fought fiercely, but to no avail, and soon the barbarian stood triumphantly atop a mound of dismembered corpses. Booyah!
. . .
Section 34:
The goblin chieftain staggered back against the table, blood draining from his many wounds. "You... you'll never win," he gasped. "Even without me, the assault will go forward as planned. At dawn, my entire tribe will slaughter your pathetic settlement. With the power of the Dark One on our side, our forces will be invincible!"
"Will they?" Krakrox grunted. "It didn't seem to do you much good." With that, he removed the goblin's head with a final slashing blow.
. . .
Section 35:
The barbarian spun around suddenly and punched one of the goblins in the face, knocking it senseless. The other goblins seemed surprised by this, but not too surprised to chop the barbarian into little cubes in retaliation. Oh well.
. . .
Section 36:
"Where are your loathsome minions, goblin swine? Did they turn tail and abandon you rather than face slaughter at the hands of the men of Seaside Camp?"
"Pfft! Not hardly," sneered the goblin. "We're doing a pretty reasonable job of kicking your asses, as I'm sure you've noticed. Guerilla tactics FTW."
"And yet your camp is empty, save for yourself and that pathetic guard tower," growled Krakrox. "Explain!"
"Religious holiday," the chieftain said simply. "They're all off at midnight Mass, making a sacrifice to our glorious Dark Lord before we slaughter the hell out of you miserable humans in the morning."
"And you didn't go with them?"
"I feel that it's important to keep religious matters separate from government," the goblin replied. "Besides, I've got these rough maps of the area to inspect. Standing at a table inspecting maps is an important part of command."
. . .
Section 37:
Krakrox crept silently around to the rear of the hut, and discovered that it didn't have a back door. Huh.
Oh well, he'd always preferred a frontal assault anyway. All this sneaking about was getting on his nerves -- it was well past time to make loud noises and cause some property damage.
. . .
Section 38:
"I accept."
"Good." said Ralph, "Frankly, if you had refused, I don't know who I might have sent in your place. This mission is not as simple as invading the goblin camp and killing them all, though that's certainly a good place to start. No, there's more. Traders from the other goblin tribes have whispered a rumor about the true leaders of the Red Noses, and it is a rumor to turn any man's blood to ice."
"I fear nothing," growled Krakrox.
"Nothing?" Ralph leaned over the table, his face grim. There was a deathly silence, and the light seemed almost to drain from the tent, wreathing the place in flickering shadows. "Do not be too certain. Even the vague snippets the goblins offered chilled me to my very core. They spoke of dark wanderers, older than time itself. Otherworldly beasts that disguise themselves in a horrible mockery of human form. Their countenances a deathly white pallor, their blood-stained lips concealing yellow, pointed teeth. Laughter that will haunt your nightmares
for all eternity..."
"I... fear... nothing!" Krakrox shouted, slamming his fist into the table, which splintered from the force of the blow. Ralph straightened, and nodded again.
"Very well." He strode to the flap of the tent, and poked his head out. "Marvin, come in here," he called. "And someone bring me a new table."
. . .
Section 39:
Krakrox pondered the situation. If he could get into the watchtower without the guards spotting him, or at least before they could react, he could take them out easily before an alarm could be raised. But how?
. . .
Section 40:

Krakrox pushed the door open and strode into the room with his head lowered, the dark hood covering his face. The guard looked up. "Sacrifice time already?" he asked, and Krakrox nodded silently.
Grunting, the guard hauled himself to his feet and shuffled over to the corner of the room where a young woman sat morosely on the floor, her wrists shackled to the walls with stout iron chains. The guard grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet, then fiddled with her cuffs for a moment. When they finally opened, the guard roughly dragged the girl over to where the barbarian was standing. "Right then, here you go."
"Thank you," Krakrox growled, uncovering his face.
"Hey!" said the guard, "You not goblin! In fact, you look just like Conurrk!"
As the goblin collapsed to the floor, the girl began to faint. Krakrox caught her by the shoulders. "None of that, now," he growled. "We've no time for foolishness." As her eyelids fluttered back open, Krakrox took in her almond-shaped eyes, delicately-pointed ears, and pale, almost luminescent skin. "You're an elf," he said.
"Very perceptive," she replied softly. "I am Pancetta, of the Pork Elves of the western coast. My father has been studying the ancient ruins in this jungle, and I was accompanying him to aid in his research. Our camp was attacked, and I was taken captive."
"And your father?"
"Dead." Her eyes welled up with tears, and Krakrox hastened to change the subject.
"You're... you're dressed rather unusually."
Pancetta wiped her eyes. "Whatever do you mean?"
"Well, whenever I've rescued helpless girls from ancient ruined temples before," he said, "they've always been wearing... you know, flowing silks, diaphanous gowns, that sort of thing. Not tweed pant-suits."
"Tweed is very practical," she frowned. "Wear a silk gown in the jungle? It'd be ruined!"
Krakrox sighed. "Could you at least take your hair out of that bun? You look like a schoolmarm, and frankly it's putting me off."
"Well," she sniffed haughtily, "I wasn't aware of any dress code for hostage situations. Will there be a bikini contest, too?"
"Blog's teeth, girl!" Krakrox growled. "I'll not be known as the barbarian who braved unknown horrors in ancient temples to rescue somebody's maiden aunt!"
"Oh, fine." Pancetta said, rolling her eyes. She took out her hairpins and tossed her head; luxuriant red-gold hair cascaded in waves down to her shoulders like the last rays of the setting sun, and she arched a delicate eyebrow. "Better?"
"That'll do fine," Krakrox grunted.
"I could endeavor to lose some buttons off my shirt, if it will help."
The barbarian ground his teeth. "Let's just get a move on, all right?"
. . .
Section 41:
Krakrox pushed aside the flap of the large tent that served as mess hall, tavern, and lounge for the men of the encampment, and strode up to the counter where Willer, the camp cook, was polishing a mug.
"Afternoon, Krakrox. Headed out on patrol again?"
"Something like that, yes," Krakrox grunted.
"Let me get you one for the road, then." Willer filled a pewter tankard from a large cask in the corner, and set it down in front of Krakrox.
The barbarian took a swig, and immediately spat it back into the mug. "Willer, this beer is even worse than usual," he growled.
"Yeah, well, we only brought the one sack of hops, so I've had to make do with whatever I could scavenge up."
"Which was?"
"Frogs. I figure, they hop, so that's basically the same thing, right? Plus I found these really pretty little bright orange and electric blue ones." He held one up, then dropped it in a mortar. It made a schlitz noise when he crushed it with the pestle. "Everyone reacted pretty much the same as you, though. Said it tasted awful and made their tongues go numb. They refuse to drink it," he sighed.
Krakrox took another mouthful of the brew and swished it around thoughtfully before spitting it out again. "Give me one to go," he said, taking a waterskin from his belt and putting it on the counter.
. . .
Section 42:

The initial plan for this section of the book was to have a large maze of twisting passageways and confusing intersections, the trick being that the closer you got to the goal, the more ticked off Krakrox would get about having to wander around in mazes, and why don't temple architects ever design a nice straightforward floor plan, etc. -- a sort of 'warmer-or-colder' thing, you see? Unfortunately, the booklet printing process limits us to a specific number of pages, and there's not going to be enough room, so we're going to have to skip that and just move on to the next bit. If you like, you can simulate the experience by drawing a lot of interconnected lines and boxes on a sheet of paper and cursing loudly.
. . .
Section 43:
The corridor proceeded through a large archway. On the far side of it, the torches that had lit the catacombs thus far were not in evidence, and the hallway quickly vanished into inky blackness.
"Ominous," growled Krakrox. "We must be getting near to our goal."
. . .
Section 44:
Krakrox approached the forge where the camp blacksmith (cleverly nicknamed "Smith") was pounding at the anvil.
"Ho, Smith," Krakrox shouted over the noise. "What are you making?"
"Fishhooks." He held up a massive barbed hook, the length of a man's forearm and as thick as the hilt of a sword.
"Blog's eyes," swore Krakrox, "that's one hell of a fish."
Smith shrugged. "Bigger the hook, bigger the catch, I figure. Might as well go for the gold. Here, have one. Maybe you'll get lucky." He tossed one of the finished hooks to Krakrox, who hung it on his belt.
. . .
Section 45:
Krakrox is pretty buff and all, but one guy against three hundred? What do you think this is, Sparta?
. . .
Section 46:
Pancetta was astonished. "That's it? That's the punchline?"
"Yep," Krakrox grunted.
"Four whole pages for that? That's ridiculous!"
"That's the short version."
Beelzebozo's body dissolved into a thick cloud of polka-dotted smoke, and there was an unearthly wailing. "THIS IS NOT OVER! ONE DAY, I SHALL RETURN!"
"Aye," Krakrox snorted. "And doubtless some random adventurer will slay you then as well. Pathetic." He grabbed Pancetta by the arm and dashed from the chamber. "Come, girl! We must escape this place before it collapses upon us!"
"But..." The elf was gasping for breath as she struggled to keep up. "But, Krakrox! I see no sign of collapse!"
Krakrox stopped, and looked about him. The floor and walls were not shaking, and dust and small bits of stone weren't falling from the ceiling. Everything seemed normal, or anyway as normal as you get in a catacomb beneath an ancient evil temple shaped like the head of a clown. "Well that's rare," he said. "Usually these places go down like lead sandcastles when you kill the main guy."
"...Lead sandcastles?" Pancetta asked.
The two of them strolled casually out of the temple. Back on the surface, they discovered that the goblins had all either fled or killed each other in a frenzied panic. A couple appeared to have melted, for no discernible reason.
"What will you do now, Krakrox?" Pancetta asked.
"I know not. Seaside Camp is safe now, but I have no desire to go back there. I am unused to taking orders."
"Perhaps you could escort me home? My family must be terribly worried. You might even get a medal!"
Krakrox raised an eyebrow. "Why? Are you actually some manner of princess, and didn't tell me?"
"No, but my uncle collects old medals, and he might give you one. And then you could hang around for a while before getting bored and eager to seek out a new adventure, and leave in the night without saying good-bye, and I'll pine for you for a while before eventually getting married to someone who won't be half the man that you are."
"That sounds like a plan," Krakrox nodded.
And as the sun rose over the horizon, the two of them walked into the jungle, and into... history.
. . .
Section 47:
Congratulations, you're about halfway through the book now! Well, maybe more like two-fifths, but who's counting, right? Anyway, since there's a slight pause in the narrative here while Krakrox runs south through the dark and mysterious Loathingian jungles to the even darker and more mysterious temple of the demonic Clownlord, Beelzebozo -- oh, did you see the section where the goblin chieftain tells Krakrox that his Dark Lord is Beelzebozo? If not, I guess that was a spoiler. Sorry! You could always flip back and read it now. I think it was Section 12.
Anyway, like I was saying, this is sort of like a chapter break sort of thing right here, so if you needed to go to the bathroom, or freshen your drink, or maybe make a sandwich or grab a smoke or something? This would be a good time to do it, right about now. Just remember that you were on Section 47. That's a pretty easy number to remember, right?
. . .
Section 48:
Krakrox left the relative safety of the sharpened-log wall of Seaside Camp, and carefully searched the perimeter. Soon, he was able to pick up the trail left by the goblins in their assault of the previous night -- hopefully, the tracks would not be too old to follow back to the goblins' own camp.
He followed the trail to the southwest, his cold, piercing eyes picking out every subtle goblin footprint, every sandwich crust, every candy-bar wrapper left in their wake. Silently as a mime or some other very silent thing, Krakrox prowled onward through the forest.
. . .
Section 49:
The main problem with poison as a means of assassination is the necessity of actually having some poison to do it with.
. . .
Section 50:
Keeping to the shadows, Krakrox crept silently to the base of the watchtower, and knocked on the ladder. "Oi," he called up in a goblin-sounding accent.
"Who dat?" came the response.
"Wot? That not invented yet!"
"Don't be stupid! There no landsharks for miles!"
Krakrox growled angrily to himself, then said: "Your mother's a whore!"
"Wot? You just come up here and say that!"
"Okay!" Krakrox charged up the ladder with his sword in his teeth, ready to inflict some grievous bodily harm upon the goblin guards. Unfortunately, the goblins were ready for some grievous bodily harm-inflicting of their own, didn't have to climb any ladders, and had their swords in their hands, not their teeth. So on the whole, it didn't go very well for Krakrox.
. . .
Section 51:
The hallway continued straight for fifty feet or so, then took a right turn. As Krakrox turned the corner, he came upon a heavy oaken door in the left wall. It was slightly ajar, and the flickering torchlight which streamed from the gap was somewhat stronger than in the rest of the murky catacombs.
"Finally!" thought Krakrox, "something to do other than wander around this ridiculous Blog-damned maze."
. . .
Section 52:
Keeping to the shadows, Krakrox crept silently to the base of the watchtower, then strapped on the goblin armor and, reluctantly, the extremely disturbing leather mask. He knocked on the ladder and called up in a rough goblin-like voice: "Oi! Shift change!"
One of the goblins looked down through the hatch, and nodded. "Come on up."
As the goblins argued over whose turn it was to go on break, Krakrox climbed the ladder and lifted himself into the tower. The goblins gave him a strange look.
"You don't look so hot," said one. "What wrong with your face?"
Krakrox shrugged. "Botox."
The goblins winced. "Man, why you do that to yourself?"
"I like to feel pretty," Krakrox growled, as he neatly decapitated the goblin. The other two began to shout an alarm, but found it difficult with long sharp bits of metal poked through their lungs.
Krakrox removed the disguise and crept back down the ladder, smiling to himself with grim satisfaction.
. . .
Section 53:

Krakrox pushed open the ancient door and entered the room, then stopped short, sniffing the air. Pancetta peered nervously around the dimly torch-lit room, seeing nothing but stone walls, ancient dust, and shadows. "What is it?" she asked, her hand on his arm.
"Stay back," he growled.
Three figures emerged from the shadowy corners of the room -- it was impossible to determine if they had been there all along, merely concealed by the darkness, or if they had coalesced, creating solid form from the shadows themselves. They were humanoid in form, but every detail of their appearance held a wrongness that marked them as inhuman -- impossibly pale white skin with no trace of color save for the bulbous red noses and blood-red grins, grins that were too wide to belong to a human face. The curly, matted hair that glistened with a sickly rainbow of hues. The baggy, garishly patterned clothing that did not move as clothing should, but seemed almost to be a part of their bodies, as though their very skins hung loosely on their frames.
"Intruders in our master's house!" one of them hissed, then giggled. "What shall we do with them?"
"Smother them with pies," hissed the second. "Let them feel the slime slide down their throats, fill their lungs, choke off their last breath."
"Spray them with seltzer," hissed the third. "Acid spray to burn them, melt the flesh from their bones, sizzle and writhe in agony."
"Acceptable choices," said the first clown, leering at its intended victims. "Choke them or spray them? Hands up for choking."
The second clown raised a taloned hand. "Aye," it giggled.
Krakrox frowned. "What are you doing?"
"Deciding how you die, human."
"By putting it to a vote? I did not expect you to be so democratic."
The clown cackled. "We all vote down here."
"That was a long way to go for that pun," grumbled Krakrox.
"Everybody's a critic," the clown hissed, leaping for his throat.
Combat! Turn to the combat rules at the back of the book and... aw, who am I kidding? Even if those rules were real, you'll probably just pick the 'win' choice regardless. I know I would.
. . .
Section 54:
Keeping to the shadows, Krakrox crept silently to the base of the watchtower, and inspected the ladder. No good -- they would definitely see him as he climbed through the hatch in the tower floor, and the game would be up. He would have to climb the outer structure and jump in behind them, he decided.
Grabbing one of the rough wooden planks, the mighty barbarian began to scale the tower. Under normal circumstances it would be a simple climb, but being forced to undertake it in darkness and utmost silence made it slow going.
Then, Krakrox placed his weight on a loose board, which creeeeaked in protest. He instantly froze, holding his breath.
"You hear something?" said one of the goblins from above.
There was a pause. "...No."
"...Huh. Must just be wind."
Krakrox slowly exhaled and began to ascend again. All was well, until: creeeeak.
"Okay, I hear it that time. What was that?"
Thinking quickly, Krakrox jammed his right hand into his left armpit and pumped his elbow up and down, creating a thrrp thrrp thrrp noise, while wailing in a high voice: "Baaats! Baaaaaaaats!"
"Oh, just bats," said the goblin. "Never mind."
Krakrox suppressed a sigh of relief. Damn, but these goblins sure were stu...
"You positive? It not sound like any bats I ever heard."
...All right, maybe not quite as stupid as that.
"Sounded like bats to me." Three faces appeared over the edge of the tower and peered down at Krakrox. "Hey, what you doing?"
"Baaaats!" replied Krakrox. "Baaaaaats!" Thrrp thrrp thrrp.
"Okay," said the goblin. "That definitely not bats. It pretty good impression though."
"Sure had me fooled," said the other goblin. "Kudos."
Then they pulled out bows, and well, it wasn't pretty.
. . .
Section 55:

"Enough talk!" Krakrox growled "Let's settle this!"
"I quite agree," smirked the goblin. "And so does my bodyguard."
Despite himself, Krakrox turned around, then spun back to face the goblin with a curse, but a moment too late. "Sucker," sneered the goblin chieftain as he leapt into the air, vaulting the table and grabbing his sword from the ceiling. Twisting as he landed, he brought the sword down with a crack!, scattering the maps as Krakrox dove beneath the table, rolling and springing back onto his feet on the other side, facing the goblin with his sword at the ready and an icy glare in his eyes. That probably doesn't work nearly as well in print as it does in my imagination, but trust me, it was awesome.
Wooo, combat! Turn to the last page of the book for the combat rules, then come back here when you've determined the winner.
. . .
Section 56:
Head bowed and walking as nonchalantly as possible, Krakrox slowly made his way nearer to the front of the crowd so that he could hear what was being said.
At first, as far as the warrior could tell, it was merely random mystical mumbo-jumbo. A goblin whom Krakrox assumed to be the tribe's witch doctor from the large wooden mask he wore -- painted white with bright red lips, nose, and eyes -- shouted line after line of gibberish which the goblins reverently repeated back in chorus. Despite not understanding the words, Krakrox did his best to follow along with the recitation, lest he attract attention to himself... though for all he knew, it might as well have been instructions from a gnomish blender repair manual. He just hoped he wasn't promising
his immortal soul to any foul demonic entities, or agreeing to a new mortgage or anything like that.
Then, the witch doctor raised his hands for silence, and began to shout in a language that Krakrox understood:
"Goblins! Warriors of the Red Nose Tribe! Our hour of glory is nearly at hand!" The goblins all cheered, and Krakrox grudgingly raised a fist and shouted "Woo!"
"Soon we shall attack the human encampment, and strengthened by the powers of our Master, we will annihilate the human scum! We shall destroy them utterly, and the dark future that our Lord has shown to us will never come to pass! Our beautiful jungle razed to the ground? The great goblin tribes reduced to a single pathetic clan, hiding in a hole in the dirt and eating sausages of suspicious provenance to survive, while humans run wild over our lands like some foul plague? Never!"
"Never!" shouted the goblins. (Although one standing near Krakrox said "I quite like sausages actually," and was quickly shushed by the others.)
"When the rays of dawn brighten the horizon on the morrow, we will sacrifice our captive to The Big-Shoed One and slaughter the human settlement! And then these lands will be ours! The Red Nose Tribe will rule these lands for eternity!"
As the goblins cheered wildly, Krakrox cursed under his breath. A captive, due to be sacrificed? Doubtless it was some beautiful girl he'd have to rescue. Why did these things always have to get complicated?
The ceremony apparently over, the goblins started lighting cook-fires and talking excitedly amongst themselves. In the midst of the hubbub, Krakrox slipped unnoticed into the open mouth of the hideous clown-head temple.
. . .
Section 57:
Krakrox quickly pulled down one of the ubiquitous jungle vines and knotted it to the fishhook, transforming it into a serviceable grappling-iron. Then his brow furled as he regarded the tower again. No, this wouldn't do -- the goblins would surely notice if he threw the hook into their tower. However...
He swung the hook and threw it into the branches of a small tree nearby, and his muscles bunched and strained as he began to pull...
. . .
Section 58:
Krakrox cautiously peered around the edge of the door-frame and looked inside. From this angle, he could see only a large goblin seated on a stool, wearing one of the dark cult robes and reading a small book. (Oddly, he seemed to be flipping through the book at random, and had several fingers stuck between the pages.) From elsewhere in the room came a muted clinking of chains, and a feminine whimper.
"Aha," thought the barbarian, "the goblins' captive. Better get this rescue over with."
. . .
Section 59:
There was a reverberating CRASH as the door splintered inward from Krakrox's mighty kick, followed by a clang! as he deftly knocked the sword from the goblin chieftain's hand. It flew to the ceiling and impaled itself there, quivering as the dust settled and the two warriors stared coldly at each other across the table.
"Vile human wretch," spat the goblin. "I see that the raiding parties I sent have failed to exterminate you scum. I take it you had a hand in this?"
"Indeed," growled Krakrox. "You'll not find us to be as easy a prey as you bargained for. ...Er, as that for which you bargained."
. . .
Section 60:
As the goblin chieftain's severed head hit the floor, Krakrox was already hurriedly paging through the scattered maps and documents, fervently hoping that one of them would pinpoint the location of the rest of the Red Nose tribe and the dark power that ruled them. Seeing as he had just slain the only person who could have told him, Krakrox was bound to feel pretty foolish if they didn't. Fortunately, one of the maps was revealed to have a rune marked on it which Krakrox identified as the goblin character for "Ancient Temple of Our Dark Master", so that saved him some embarrassment.
According to the map, it was not far to the south. If the barbarian hurried, he could get there and put an end to this mess before the morning sunrise signaled the goblins' attack.
. . .
Section 61:

Krakrox dove to the side as the clown leapt at him, and slashed the fiend across the belly with his blade. The wound sprayed multicolored confetti with an incongruously cheerful phweeeeet noise, and the clown collapsed to the ground, writhing in agony. The two remaining clowns quickly moved to flank the barbarian, one producing a large seltzer bottle from its baggy trousers, the other an oozing, slightly greenish cream pie.
Krakrox's gaze flicked from one clown to the other. There was a tense pause, and then he jumped backward just as the clowns let fly with their weapons. They missed the warrior and struck each other in a rather predictable fashion, and as the first clown struggled to remove the pie tin that had stuck fast, covering its face, the second clown shrieked as its flesh dissolved from the acidic seltzer, transforming it into a steaming mound of slime that glistened rainbow colors like a pool of motor oil on the surface of a parking lot.
Krakrox delivered a coup de grâce to the suffocating clown, then turned to Pancetta, who was standing by the door shaking, her hands over her mouth. "Are you all right?"
"I've... I've never seen anything so horrible!"
"You get used to it. Help me find whatever it is these foul creatures were guarding."
"What makes you think they were guarding anything?"
"Three monsters sitting waiting in a room instead of out prowling the corridors? If they weren't guarding anything, they should be whipped for slacking on the job. Ah, here we are." He gestured to a paving stone, the edges of which were scratched and clawed, then levered it up with the point of his sword. Underneath the stone was a leather bag the size of a grapefruit, which was revealed to contain a crystal sphere set on a dark wooden base. Krakrox turned it over in his hands, inspecting it, then showed it to Pancetta. "What is this? Some manner of ancient mystical scrying device?"
She took it from his hands and looked into the glass. "Well, not exactly. It came from the elven city of Porkham."
"How can you tell?"
"It's got a little model of Porkham inside it, see? I don't think it's particularly magical, unless it's predicting that it'll snow there tomorrow.
What an odd trinket to find in a place like this."
Krakrox snorted. "You never can tell, with clowns. Come, we have no time to dawdle."
. . .
Section 62:
A disguise of some sort would be a good idea, mused Krakrox -- perhaps he could acquire some information about the temple and the Clownlord's plans.
. . .
Section 63:
Krakrox drew his sword, took a deep breath, and charged around the corner, shouting his battle cry (which, incidentally, was "Battle cry!" He had discovered that it didn't really matter what you shouted, so long as you shouted something, and had never bothered to come up with anything else).
He tore toward the temple entrance unimpeded, as the goblins were all too astonished to react. As he reached the mouth of the hideous stone clown head, he knocked the witch doctor aside with a powerful sweep of his sword, which made a very satisfying crack! against the goblin's wooden mask, sending him sprawling, though Krakrox did not slow his pace to see the result of the blow, instead hurtling into the temple at full speed.
The temple's interior proved to be a single large room, with flickering torches illuminating elaborate carvings on the walls that probably would have been extremely disturbing had Krakrox stopped to inspect them. However, the barbarian's keen ears told him that the goblins had recovered from their momentary shock and were now close on his heels, so he immediately descended a large spiral staircase in the center of the room, running as fast as he dared down the ancient stone steps.
Unfortunately, it turned out he was a bit too daring where those ancient steps, worn smooth by generation upon generation of cultists, were concerned. His feet skidded out from beneath him, and he fell headlong into blackness...
. . .
Section 64:
Krakrox picked up a large stone and weighed it carefully in his hand for a moment, then lobbed it into the air. It arced unnoticed over the crowd of goblins, then dropped, striking one of them squarely on the head with an audible clonk. The goblin, knocked unconscious, fell into one of his comrades, pushing him into a third goblin, who pushed back with a snarl. Soon, the entire crowd was an angry, confused brawl.
"Stop that!" shouted the witch doctor, largely unnoticed. "Honestly, I can't take you idiots anywhere! Do you all want a time-out? Is that what you want?"
Unnoticed in the chaos, Krakrox slipped into the temple.
. . .
Section 65:
As he cautiously prowled into the goblin camp, Krakrox could not shake the feeling that something was amiss. It was simply too quiet. There were no goblins getting drunk around the bonfires, or brawling in the streets... no goblins anywhere, as far as he could sense them, and Krakrox's senses were as keen as a sharpened eagle.
As he approached the center of the camp, he spotted what was undoubtedly the Chief's hut, identifiable by its large size, durable construction, and the little placard that said "Chief's Hut -- No Solicitors".
Creeping up to the window, Krakrox spotted the goblin chieftain standing at a table, inspecting some rough maps of the area.
. . .
Section 66:
That door looks pretty important. Are you sure you don't want to check it out?
. . .
Section 67:
Krakrox burst into the room with a shout, and the guard dropped his book in surprise, then looked crestfallen.
"You made me lose place. Uh, places."
"The next thing you lose will be your head, vile goblin!"
"Oh, very witty. You come up with that yourself?"
Rather than dignify that with a reply, Krakrox simply cut the guard's head off. Then, wiping his sword on the goblin's robe, he turned to inspect the rest of the room, which was little more than a featureless prison cell. A young woman sat morosely in the corner, her wrists chained to the wall with heavy iron shackles. "You're not one of them," she said, wiping a tear from her eye. "Have... have you come to rescue me?"
"Against my better judgement, yes." grumbled the barbarian. He strode toward the girl, and noted her pale, almost luminescent skin, and her delicately pointed ears. "You're an elf," he said.
"Well spotted," she murmured. "Unfortunately, brave warrior, you have failed in your mission. My chains are unbreakable, the locks resistant to any subterfuge."
"Combination locks." She held her wrists out to Krakrox, showing him the eight-digit dials. "And the guard you just killed was the only one who knew the combination.
I thank you for trying, but I fear that I am lost."
"Fear not, girl. Once I have bested these goblins and their dark master, I shall return with proper tools and make short work of these chains."
The elf shook her head sadly. "I am sorry, but your quest is over. You will be unable to defeat the Clownlord without me. I have only limited powers of prophecy, but this much I know."
"Well, crap," Krakrox grumbled.
  • So much for that, I guess. Since I'm not a total douchebag, I won't force you to completely start over. Go back to Section 7.
. . .
Section 68:
Krakrox scowled. Poison was the lowest, most cowardly tool of the assassin, and the very thought of stooping to those depths disgusted him.
Besides, he didn't have any.
There was nothing for it but to attempt to take the tower directly.
. . .
Section 69:
"Just what is your grievance with the men of Seaside Camp? The other goblin tribes are satisfied to leave them alone, or even trade..."
"The other goblins are fools," spat the chieftain. "I've seen the pictographs on the wall. Sure, now it's 'Oh don't mind us, we'll just mind our own business in our tiny little colony over here,' but soon enough it'll be 'Well golly, our little village can't support this many people, but we'll gladly give you some shiny baubles in exchange for your prime waterfront real-estate, and we'll throw in some nice almost-not-used-at-all blankets for free!' Next thing you know, our most lucrative job opportunity will be playing 'Savage Goblin Bastard #2' in some crappy genre film! Hell, you only just arrived, and already I've been reduced to 'goblin chieftain' -- not even a proper name! Well, up yours, Kemosabe, because we're cutting you off right here and right now! Tomorrow at dawn, we crush your pathetic camp, for the good of all goblins!"
"Gosh," said Krakrox.
"Oh, and also because our glorious and all-powerful Dark Lord commanded it," added the goblin.
. . .
Section 70:
Krakrox and Pancetta were confronted by another large wooden door. The hallway continued past it into flickering shadow.
"Blog's teeth!" Krakrox muttered in mock surprise. "Do we actually have a choice here?"
"Don't be such a curmudgeon," Pancetta admonished him. "It can't be easy to fit an entire story into twenty-two pages, and still include meaningful choices."
"It might have been easier if the author hadn't filled the pages up with post-modern nonsense," Krakrox grumbled. "One would think this temple only had three walls."
. . .
Section 71:
Krakrox weighed the skin of frog-beer in his hand, and scowled. Poison was the lowest, most cowardly tool of the assassin, and the very thought of stooping to those depths disgusted him. On the other hand, it was also one of the quietest tools of the assassin, and a little moral conflict was a damn sight better than having to fight an entire tribe of goblins in their own camp.
Keeping to the shadows, the barbarian carefully crept up to the base of the watchtower, and called up to the guards in his best imitation of the guttural goblin accent: "Oi! Breaktime!" and then tossed the waterskin up to them. Crouched in the darkness beneath the tower, he heard the goblins put down their weapons.
"'Bout time, too. We been up here ages. Pass that skin over, don't bogart it."
A pause, then: "Hey, this not bad. Not as good as stomped-on grapes, but it have subtle, pleasing bouquet of... urk... urrcch..."
There was a trio of soft thuds as the goblins slumped to the floor, and Krakrox nodded grimly.
. . .
Section 72:
Pancetta stopped at the mouth of the archway, peering hesitantly into the pitch-black hallway. "Are you sure about this, Krakrox? It doesn't look safe in there."
"Do you have a better alternative?" Krakrox growled.
"Well... I could create a light for us. But I would need a container, a glass jar or bottle of some sort."
. . .
Section 73:
Oh no! You have walked into the slavering fangs of a lurking grue! (And by 'you', I mean Krakrox.)
. . .
Section 74:

Lars stared in disbelief at the smoking wreck before him. His gunblade was red-hot and his shield was pitted with shrapnel. "I-I suppose I should have known," Helga stammered. "Gunther couldn't have been your clone: you have a warrior's passionate, fiery heart, but he was always so cold."
"Yes, Helga," Lars said, tossing his steaming gunblade to Frobot, who clicked and whistled appreciatively as he caught the blade in a flash of steel and a whine of servo motors. "I see now that you have been bewitched, and I have been deceived, by nothing but a highly advanced android. My legendary killing blow, taught me by monks high in the mountains, activated its self-destruct mechanism. That means it was sent here for only one purpose: to kill me. Only one sorcerer on Grandor is so powerful: the dreaded technowizard Rothimar."
"Oh, Lars!" Helga gasped, her eyes filling with tears. "It is good that you had your dragonskin shield!"
"Yes," Lars said, then looked down and smirked. "The only thing the explosion did was deepen my tan -- and, of course, it seems to have vaporized my loincloth."
"Oh, my dear Lars," Helga said, her bosom heaving, "I would never wish you to be embarrassed in my company. Piksprit, assist me, please." The miniature unicorn at once flew to the straps holding Helga's fur-lined bikini together and began to nibble gently on them. Frobot whistled appreciatively as Helga's cybernetic enhancements and tribal tattoos were slowly revealed.
Wait a minute -- what are you doing here? This is a very private and tender moment between a man, a woman, a faithful robot companion, and a miniature flying unicorn. Have you no shame?
  • You should back away slowly, let's say to, oh, Section 7, and tell no one what you saw here.
. . .
Section 75:
Unfortunately, Krakrox left the goblin armor and that revolting mask in the watchtower, remember?
I guess this section didn't really need to be here, but I just wanted to let you know that I hadn't forgotten about such an obvious solution. I'm not just making this thing up as I go along, I swear.
. . .
Section 76:
"Krakrox? Krakrox, wake up."
The barbarian groaned, and shook his head, clawing his way back to consciousness. Groggily, he opened his eyes, then squinted against the bright light. As his vision cleared, he found himself lying beneath a tree in a sun-drenched meadow, his head in the lap of a beautiful maiden. Her golden hair rippled in the soft breeze as she stroked his forehead, and smiled.
"What in Blog's name... I remember falling down the stairs in that hideous temple. I must have been stricken unconscious. What has happened?" he asked. "Was I rescued? Did someone bring me to this peaceful place to recover?"
The girl shook her head sadly. "No, Krakrox, I'm afraid not."
"No. The situation was dire indeed. Who could possibly have rescued me from that? I must have died. This must be heaven."
She giggled slightly and shook her head again. "Heaven? This would hardly be a suitable heaven for you, Krakrox. There's no beer here, for a start."
"Hmm." Krakrox frowned for a moment, then rolled his eyes. "Oh, I get it. I'm still knocked out, and this is a dream I am having. And any moment, I'm going to wake up with a clown at my throat. That's it, isn't it?" The girl nodded, and Krakrox growled in disgust. "That is undoubtedly the oldest one in the book. Well, forget it. I'll not be a party to it."
The girl was plainly confused. "No?"
"No, Blog damn it. If this story can't get by without resorting to a cheesy old gag like that, then it may as well end right here." He crossed his arms obstinately and closed his eyes again. "Keep stroking my forehead, I like that."
And then the clown ate him.
. . .
Section 77:

The massive chamber was decorated richly, garishly, and horrifyingly -- as though there had been three interior designers, who couldn't agree on whether it was meant to be a throne room, circus tent, or torture chamber, and fought each other tooth and nail every step of the way. On the far side of the room, atop a gaily-striped red and blue marble dais, the great Clownlord Beelzebozo sat upon his throne of human funnybones.
"Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense," Pancetta protested. "The funnybone isn't an actual bone, it's just a nerve. How do you make a throne out of..." Krakrox hushed her impatiently.
Beelzebozo rose majestically from his throne. "You have done well to make it this far, barbarian," he said, "but you are too late. The sun will soon rise, and with the aid of my powers, the goblins will slaughter your pathetic human settlement. My name will go down in history as the victor of the greatest, most horrific tale of clown versus human ever told!" He cackled with malicious glee.
"Really?" Krakrox mused. "Better than the Snappy Comebacks one?"
The Clownlord's laughter stopped. "...I don't think I've heard that one."
"Well," Krakrox began, "back home in the Distant Lands, they tell a tale of a young boy who fought one of you horrible fiends -- but nay, worse than that, a human, a comic actor who sought the dark power of these creatures."
"What happened?" asked Pancetta.

"It was a gentler time, then, before these demons prowled the earth so openly, before the word 'clown' evoked such horror. They say that a travelling circus arrived at this boy's village, and he was greatly excited, for travelling with them was a certain man, a clown, who was renowned throughout the land for his unparalleled wit. The boy's parents were simple farmers, however, and could not afford the price of admission. Determined to see the show, the boy toiled ceaselessly, laboring for his neighbors, or for local merchants, or for anyone who would give him a coin, until finally he managed to save enough to purchase a ticket for the Saturday show, the last show before the circus moved on to other pastures.
"That morning, the boy awoke early, and did his chores as quickly as he was able, so that he might get to the show as soon as possible. He was not the first to arrive, but he was able to acquire quite a good seat -- right in the middle of the bleachers, only one row from the front. He was more excited than he had ever been in his life.
"The lights dimmed, and the show began. The first act was a strongman, in leopard hides and a great handlebar moustache, who performed such feats of strength as even I would struggle to duplicate. Following him was a magician, a mysterious cloaked figure who produced exotic birds from thin air, and skewered his beautiful assistant with a dozen longswords, without spilling a drop of her blood. And following the magician, a troupe of acrobats that seemed to defy gravity itself, dancing through the air with the grace of angels.
"Then..." said Krakrox, his voice hushed, "Then the clowns came." Pancetta gasped, and the barbarian shook his head. "Nay girl, remember, these were simpler times, before these spawn of darkness showed themselves," he growled, gesturing at Beelzebozo, who was listening intently, black eyes staring. "In those days a 'clown' was a comedian, a mirth-maker, and the clowns that the boy saw that day were masters of their craft. The audience was rolling in the aisles, their sides splitting with laughter."
"We also use hooks," Beelzebozo chuckled darkly. Krakrox ignored him.
"Suddenly, the clowns scampered and tumbled away, as a new clown appeared on the scene. It was him, the clown who was known throughout the land as the ultimate master of his art, though his name is lost to us now.
"He was tall and thin, and stood ramrod-straight in the center of the stage. His white face had little adornment save for the red paint on his thin lips and a red dot at the tip of his nose, and he was dressed colorfully, but not as garishly as the others. He exuded an air of power and authority that was felt by everyone who looked upon him.
"Smoothly, casually, he lit a cigarette. As the smoke curled to the roof of the tent, he surveyed the scene about him, then strode majestically toward the bleachers. He stopped just in front of them, and as he smoked, he surveyed every face in the audience, inspecting each person carefully, as though mentally cataloguing them for some unknown purpose. He dropped the cigarette on the floor, and carefully, deliberately crushed it beneath his heel. Then, he slowly raised his arm, and pointed.
"He pointed at the boy. 'Hey, you,' he said.
"'Who, m-me?' the boy stammered.
"'Yeah, you. Are you the horse's head?'
"The boy was flummoxed. 'I... no?'
"A slow grin appeared on the clown's face. 'Well then,' he said, 'you must be the horse's ass!'
"The crowd erupted into fits of laughter.
The boy was utterly stunned; he had no idea how to react to this insult. The people around him pointed and mocked his open-mouthed expression of shock, laughing all the harder. He leapt from his seat and fled the tent in embarrassment, and ran all the way home, sobbing."
"Poor child," Pancetta sniffled.
"That night, as the boy lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling and replaying the scene in his head over and over, his shame and humiliation turned to anger, and then rage. 'How dare he?' he whispered, and he decided then and there that he would have his revenge. He vowed to beat the clown at his own game.
"A new school term was just starting, and the next day, after class, the boy approached his teacher, a kindly, wise old sage, and told him what had happened, and of his desire for vengeance. The teacher sighed and shook his head.
"'My boy, there is no one in this world as proficient with the Comic Insult as that clown. Do not be fooled into thinking of him as a mere travelling performer -- he was once Court Jester to the Emperor of our lands, and performed before dignitaries and heads of state of every nation in the world -- and they are a notoriously difficult crowd. His skill is greater than any known throughout history. '
"'Has he no weakness at all?' asked the boy.
"'The only defense against the Comic Insult is a properly-executed Snappy Comeback, but it would take a true master of the discipline to defeat him, and you know nothing of this skill.'
"The boy stood firm. 'I refuse to give up. Tell me what I must do, to learn of these Snappy Comebacks of which you speak.'
"The teacher regarded the boy for a long, silent moment, then slowly nodded his head. 'I see your resolve will not be shaken. Very well. I have a small number of texts and scrolls pertaining to the art of the Snappy Comeback. I will loan them to you. But, merely reading of the art will do you little good -- you will need to practice. Recruit some other children, and begin a Snappy Comebacks club here at the school. Work hard, and perhaps one day... well, one never knows.'"
"The boy leapt to the task with great determination. He was able to interest some other children, and together they read and re-read the books that the teacher had given them, and spent their afternoons taunting and insulting each other, practicing their witty retorts, their bon mots... their Snappy Comebacks. Other, similar groups appeared at nearby schools, and rivalries developed, gangs of children taking each other by surprise with vicious put-downs, and attempting to defend themselves with a well-timed quip. The boy's club rose to the top of all the other gangs, mainly due to their leader, who had discovered within himself a natural affinity for the art.
"After summer vacation was over, the boy returned to the teacher on the first day of his last term of school. 'Do you think I'm ready to face the clown?' he asked.
"The teacher shook his head. 'My boy, you have made far greater progress than I expected, but you have a long road ahead of you yet. I did not tell you this at the beginning, for I did not wish to discourage you, but there is a reason why the clown no longer entertains the Imperial Court.'
"'And what is that?'
"'He went too far. He had taken a disliking to a Duke of the Outer Kingdoms who had been overly critical of his performance, and delivered a Comic Insult so biting, so ghastly, that a blood vessel burst in the man's brain and he died on the spot. As good as you are with a Snappy Comeback, the clown is miles above you, boy. You tread on dangerous ground.'
"'You will not dissuade me,' said the boy. 'I will not rest until I have had my revenge.'
"I thought as much,' his teacher nodded.
'That is why, before the term started, I petitioned the Headmaster for permission to start a varsity Snappy Comebacks team for our senior students. Are you prepared to compete against, not just local children, but other aspiring masters of the art such as yourself? Well-trained, finely-honed teams from across this entire country?'
"The boy's eyes shone with a steely glint. 'I am.'"

Krakrox paused, his solemn gaze passing over his audience. Pancetta was hanging on his every word, and the Clownlord was listening with rapt attention. He smiled slightly, and continued:
"The boy tried out for the varsity Snappy Comebacks team, and unsurprisingly, he was not merely accepted, but made team captain. His team faced many others on the sporting fields that year. His teammates were well-trained and quick on their feet, and though the insults flew fast, their Snappy Comebacks were faster. The boy lead his team to victory against every other team in the region; they went completely undefeated.
He was the most popular boy in his school -- every girl swooned at his approach and clamored for his attentions. He had no time for such dalliances, however; there was only one thing on his mind, one goal that he had set his sights on, and strove for unceasingly: to defeat the clown. No distraction would shake him from that.
"At the end of the year, he took his team to the Varsity Snappy Comebacks National
Championships. A full score of teams arrived from every corner of the empire, each one the best that their region had to offer. It was a long and grueling tournament -- the insults were as creative and as harsh as any that the boy had yet encountered, and they flew like a hail of arrows on a battlefield.
But the boy and his team persevered, countering the insults with Snappy Comebacks and sending back insults of their own, and despite several of their number being sent off the field with injuries, the boy lead them to victory. The tournament was theirs; the boy went home a champion."
Pancetta cheered and clapped her hands excitedly, and Krakrox continued: "The school year was over, and the boy returned
to his teacher. 'Am I ready?' he asked. 'Am I ready to face the clown?'
"The teacher put a hand on the boy's shoulder, and gave him a look of the utmost seriousness. 'Lad,' he said, 'you have surpassed my greatest expectations. Your skill with a Snappy Comeback is such that you would prove a formidable challenge to any of history's masters of the Comic Insult. Except...'
"The boy finished his teacher's sentence:
'Except the clown.'
"'I'm afraid it is so. You see, there is more that I have not told you about the clown. You recall that I told you of how his insults killed a nobleman? Well, rather than face execution, he fled the palace -- fled the country, in fact. But he had had a taste of the true power of the Comic Insult, and he craved more. He spent years seeking out dark tomes of forbidden knowledge, and studying under ancient masters in hidden mountain temples. He formed pacts with dark gods, and things which are not gods but whose names I may not even whisper. His power is unimaginable. You are not ready.'
"The boy shook his head. 'I will not give up -- I have come too far to stop now. I have vowed to seek vengeance, and I shall have it.'
"'Lad, you have reached the limit of what I can teach you. Apply to the great Academy in the capitol, and continue your studies there. If anyone can defeat the clown, I believe that, in time, it will be you.'
"The boy travelled to the capital city of the empire, and was accepted into the marble halls of the great Academy. He studied there for many years, eventually receiving his doctorate degree in the field of Snappy Comebacks. He became the world's foremost authority on the subject, both historically and in modern usage, and authored several books, both for scholarly review and for popular consumption.
It was said that no one in the history of human language knew more about the art of the Snappy Comeback than he. He was no mere theoretician, either -- he competed on the worldwide Snappy Comebacks pro circuit, and remained undefeated for his entire career.
"And then, the man -- for he was a boy no longer -- received word that his time was nearly up. It was said that the clown was retiring from his life as a circus performer. This was the man's last chance to confront him, to have his revenge, to beat the clown at his own game and in his own territory.
"He returned to the little village he grew up in, to his parents' farmhouse, and practiced his Snappy Comebacks night and day, until the circus came to town.
"The first show of the week was on Tuesday, and the man arrived early and sat in the same seat he had on that first fateful day so long ago: right in the middle of the bleachers, only one row from the front. He was as tense as a coiled watch-spring, and had to force himself to relax and watch the opening performances: the strongman, whose leopard hides fit a little more loosely and whose handlebar moustache was streaked with white, but who was no less mighty for all that; the magician, just as mysterious as ever, conjuring his exotic birds out of thin air and skewering his beautiful assistant (a different girl than last time, the man noted) without harming her in the slightest; and the acrobats, said to be the children of the previous troupe, who danced through the air as adroitly as their parents had. Following them, the clowns.
"And then, there he was. The clown stood in the center of the ring -- he was obviously a good deal older now, and somewhat stooped with age, but his bearing was no less imperious, his aura of power no less awe-inspiring. He lit his cigarette and surveyed the crowd, then strode toward the bleachers, just a fraction more slowly than he had those many years ago. He inspected the faces in the audience, and as his eyes met those of the man's, they stopped. For a long moment, the two stared cooly into each other's eyes. The crowd was silent.
"Then the clown dropped his cigarette, and ground it out beneath his heel. He slowly raised his arm, and pointed -- at the fellow sitting in front of the man.
"'Hey, you,' the clown said, his voice raspy with age.
"'Uh, who? Me?' the fellow asked.
"'Yeah, you. Are you the horse's head?'
"'Uhh... no.'
"'Well then,' said the clown, 'you must be the horse's ass!'
"The crowd roared with laughter at the poor fellow's confusion. Our hero stood and left the tent, not bothering to stay for the rest of the show.
"He returned the next night, sat in the same seat. Once again, he waited through the opening acts: the strongman, the magician, the acrobats, the clowns. Once again, his nemesis appeared, and once again they locked eyes. This time, the clown chose the person sitting on the man's left.
"This repeated through the rest of the week. On Thursday, the clown chose the person sitting behind him; on Friday it was the person on his right. And then it was Saturday, the last performance of the season. The last performance of the clown's career. The man's last chance to have his revenge.
"The clown appeared. He approached the bleachers. He did not bother to scan the rest of the audience -- his eyes went straight to the man's. Ever so slightly, he nodded. Nodded in recognition of the man, in recognition of the moment. The time of their battle had finally arrived.
"The clown raised his arm and pointed. 'Hey... you.'
"The man gazed back impassively. 'Who, me?'
"'Yeah. You. Are you the horse's head?'
"'Well then.' The clown leaned in closer. 'You must be... the horse's ass.'
"Slowly, the man stood, his eyes never leaving the clown's face. And then he spoke..."
Krakrox trailed off. There a pause the length of a heartbeat, and then another.
Beelzebozo stared, then hissed, "What? What did he say?"
Snakelike, quick as lightning, Krakrox whipped his sword from its scabbard and severed Beelzebozo's head with a single stroke. "He said 'Fuck you, clown.'"
. . .
Section 78:
Congratulations! You've finished the book and proved victorious! Your reward is the admiration and respect of your peers, and this page of advertising copy. (If you haven't read the book yet and are just looking at the back cover, all you get is the advertising copy.)
If you enjoyed this book, why not try our advertising-free, subscription-free, totally free online game? It's free! It's not actually very much like this book, except that it's got a lot of funny things to read in it, and this book was written by one of the guys who writes for the game. Also the game is a whole lot longer than the book, and has a lot more of our beautiful hand-crafted images in it. The really important pictures even move a little bit! Wow!
Plus, it's got various numbers that you can make bigger, and a combat system that actually makes sense. It even has PvP, kinda!
For visiting us at Comic-Con, you can even get a free Comic-Con Exclusive in-game item! It's free! Just like the game!
If you were offended by anything in this book, please take a moment to tell us about it:
Asymmetric Publications, LLC
P.O. Box 41774
Mesa, AZ 85274-1774
Offensive Section:
Nature of Offense: (be brief but thorough):
What are you wearing?:
Writing, Layout, Etc.: Nathan "Riff" Conner
Artwork: Zack "Jick" Johnson
All content copyright © 2008,
Asymmetric Publications, LLC
If you missed previous years' booklets, you can get them at:
. . .
To determine the outcome of combat within this story, just follow these simple steps:
1) Roll three six-sided dice and take the total. This is your VITALITY POINTS.
2) Roll three eight-sided dice and subtract one from each roll, then total them.
This is your HIT POINTS.
3) Total your VITALITY POINTS and your HIT POINTS and take the square root.
This is your LIFE POINTS.
4) Your DEFENSE is the numerical value of the armor you are wearing (for example, a suit of +3 plate mail would have a value of 14), minus your ENCUMBRANCE.
5) Your DEFENSE BONUS is determined by rolling one seventeen-sided die (or, if you do not have a seventeen-sided die, you can roll two nine-sided dice and subtract one from the total). Remember to adjust this value for inflation.
6) To calculate your ATTACK POWER, flip through the pages of the booklet and point to a word at random. Convert the letters of that word to numbers (A=1, Z=26), and total them. Divide by the numerical value of the second letter of your middle name, or if you do not have a middle name, the third letter of your last name. (If you have only one name, such as "Madonna" or "Teller", use the fifth letter of that. If your name is "Bono", use 'Q'.) Add that number to the third significant digit of your current longitude. If the total is less than one, or more than four, begin reading "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. Make note of what page you are on when you fall asleep, and add that number to your total. You should now have a number from one to nine. If this is not the case, start over.
7) Your ATTACK BONUS is three.
8) Calculate VITALITY POINTS, HIT POINTS, LIFE POINTS, DEFENSE, DEFENSE BONUS, ATTACK POWER, and ATTACK BONUS for your opponent. If the game text indicates that the fight is "hard", add one to each score. If the fight is "stupid hard", add two.
9) Determine INITIATIVE. This can be done by playing a simple game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" against your opponent.
10) For each round of combat, roll five four-sided dice and add the total (minus the defender's DEFENSE BONUS) to the attacker's ATTACK POWER; roll four five-sided dice and add the total (minus the attacker's ATTACK BONUS) to the defender's DEFENSE. Subtract the lower number from the higher, and multiply the result by one and a half. This number is the amount of damage taken by the combatant whose total was lower. One-half of the damage is deducted from HIT POINTS, one-third from VITALITY POINTS, and the remaining one-sixth from LIFE POINTS. Fractions may be rounded to the fifth decimal place.
11) If a character loses all of their LIFE POINTS, they have been killed. A character that loses all of their HIT POINTS has been knocked unconscious, and misses two rounds of combat. A character that loses all of their VITALITY POINTS has been stunned. This has no game effect.

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