Wizard Books, £5.99, ISBN 1-84046-433-X
Fantasy, 2003 (Reissue)
Kharé – Cityport of Traps is the second book in Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! series. You are strongly encouraged to play The Shamutanti Hills first because completing that gamebook will give you some extra clues and items that will help you tremendously in this particular campaign.
At any rate, you have successfully completed the first stage of your mission, crossing the Shamutanti Hills, and now you must navigate through Kharé, the infamous Cityport of Traps, to access the wilderness known as the Baklands. Why do you need to pass through Kharé, you ask? Well, that’s because Steve Jackson insists that there is no other way to cross the Jabaji River. The First Noble of Kharé can sail along the Jabaji to go fishing in Lake Lumlé, but you, a mighty hero, can’t make your way across a river, how sad. However, in order to enter the Baklands via the locked North Gate of Kahré, you need to retrieve four lines of a verse that has to be recited before the gate in order to open it. There are four people in Kharé that know a line each – the First Noble has gone fishing, remember, so he can’t help you there – so you will have to find these four people. Who are these four people? Well, you will find them through a combination of chance and good luck, with good luck being necessary because each person will require you to either make good die rolls or solve puzzles before he or she will give you the line.
Kharé is definitely an interesting city. Comparisons to Port Blacksand is perhaps unavoidable, but while Kharé lacks any memorable characters that stand out, unlike Port Blacksand which has the likes of Rannik and Lord Azzur, it is nonetheless a city full of intriguing and memorable features and landscapes. However, this campaign is definitely tougher than those set in that other city of thieves. Also, if you cannot solve some of the many puzzles Mr Jackson throws at your way, you will not be able to complete your mission. The strange thing is that ultimately you will need only three of the four lines of the verse to complete your mission, as the fourth and last line – which is also the most annoying to obtain in its complete form – is actually redundant. At any rate, the difficulty level here has been jacked considerably from the previous gamebook, so be careful.
This campaign suffers from a pretty perplexing flaw though. You are a worshiper of Courga, the deity of grace, and you are supposedly a good guy, but you have the option here to kill and loot to your heart’s content without facing any repercussions. There are also some options that will require you to steal or behave like an ignoble jerk in order to reap the most advantages from that particular scene. There is a bizarre moral dissonance here that I find confusing. Perhaps if you are depicted from the start as a more neutral adventurer, this problem could have been averted. Oh well.
Kharé – Cityport of Traps is an interesting gamebook – a tough but still entertaining one. Just be ready to make several runs in order to complete this mission as there are many ways here to die in a most humiliating manner.