Wizard Books, £4.99, ISBN 1-84046-396-1
Fantasy, 2002 (Reissue)
Ian Livingstone’s Crypt of the Sorcerer has a campaign that has a more epic feel than before, so please bear with the long synopsis.
It all begins in the Moonstone Hills, when an Elf flying on his Giant Eagle witnesses a “scorched and withered hand” rising from a “deep fissure in the ground” to zap him with an “energy bolt”. The Elf escapes with his life to the nearby town of Chalice to tell his sordid brush with a most embarrassing death. You are a warrior loitering in Chalice, troubled by this news as well as by news of “pestilence, plague, disease, and famine” from the east.
Naturally, Yaztromo the Wizard has the answer. Without having to actually conduct any investigation, Yaztromo knows immediately that the evil necromancer Razaak has risen from his crypt to cause trouble. Razaak almost succeeded in his quest to become the boss of everyone the first time around about a century ago until a warrior called Kull accidentally stumbled upon the only sword that could slay Razaak and brought an end to Razaak’s party. Unfortunately, this sword also turned Kull into a living skeleton. Back to Razaak, he was entombed in a crypt by a “Lawful sorcerer” who then decreed that the tomb must not be opened for 110 years. You’d think a “Lawful sorcerer” would get rid of Razak for good, or at the very least, seal that jerk off for 11,000 years instead of a measly 110.
Still, now that someone has opened Razaak’s tomb, he’s back. You are now responsible for getting that sword that will turn you into a skeleton as well as collecting amulets and talismans in order to locate and slay Razaak. For this mission, Yaztromo gives you some healing potions. No, you get zero information and definitely zero amazing weapons to aid you on your quest. Yes, this is a very important mission. Why do you think otherwise?
This campaign is pretty linear, if a bit more epic in scope than Mr Livingstone’s usual campaigns. Unfortunately, this one boasts some of the most annoying qualities of the author’s trademark campaign elements. You will encounter many unrelated combat situations, as usual, and you will also end up collecting all kinds of junk while hoping that at least some of these things will turn out to be the items you need to overcome the author’s sadistic “Do you have this? No? Then die, bwahahahaha!” twists and turns. There will be annoying sidekicks who don’t really do much to help. Let’s not forget the insane difficulty, oh yes. Good luck with not cheating in this one because not only are there plenty of sudden deaths and deaths by not having a Special Item, you will also have to defeat Razaak without losing two attack rounds in a row. This won’t be easy because of Razaak’s very high stats.
Insanely difficult, riddled with pedestrian writing, and marred by unintentionally hilarious moments of tomfoolery (the hand rising out of the fissure is one example), Crypt of the Sorcerer is more annoying to play than entertaining. Collect this one to complete your collection if you must, but try not to play this one straight because the payoff is not worth the agony.